New York’s highest court ruled Thursday that police can interrogate suspects without reading their Miranda rights or providing a lawyer when they reasonably believe there’s a serious, ongoing emergency.
The Court of Appeals said the emergency exception to a defendant’s rights applies even when authorities don’t know for certain a crime happened.
“The emergency doctrine is premised on reasonableness, not certitude,” Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote. The court’s other six judges agreed.
They upheld prosecutors’ use of incriminating statements that Scott Doll made after the 2009 beating death of business partner Joseph Benaquist, including statements made hours after he was detained and requested a lawyer.
A Genesee County deputy responding to an evening 911 call about a suspicious person found Doll walking on a roadway. Doll initially said wet blood on his clothes was from butchering deer, but he declined to take authorities to the deer or explain why the blood was still wet. More blood was found in his van. He asked for a lawyer.
Eventually authorities went to Benaquist’s home and found him dead in the driveway.
Doll, now 51, is serving 15 years to life in prison.
His attorneys argued that he was arrested without probable cause and interrogated in violation of his right to a lawyer and without proper Miranda warning of his right to have one.
In a separate opinion, Judge Jenny Rivera agreed the emergency doctrine permits questioning even after a defendant invokes his right to counsel, but in Doll’s case the questioning should have stopped once the body was found. “No reasonable basis existed” for failing at that point to grant his earlier request for a lawyer, she wrote.
Rivera also disagreed with the majority and concluded that an investigator who later allowed a friend of Doll’s to talk with him, and stayed nearby to record incriminating statements, amounted to “a subterfuge” that circumvented his right to a lawyer.