During a recent motion hearing in Springfield Massachusetts, a murder defendant took the stand claiming he was too high on PCP-laced marijuana to understand the miranda rights that were read to him by the arresting officers. The defendant Lee Rios said that he only agreed to sign the Miranda warning because he wanted to get information from the police and, without signing, the police would not talk to him.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court has noted that the four warnings that constitute miranda are not to be changed, but that the exact words in which the essential information should be conveyed has not been dictated. As long as the miranda rights are reasonably dictated to the person being charged with a crime, the Supreme Court recognizes the warning as valid. If the officer fails to make the miranda warnings clear to the individual or if the officer fails to give the defendant in custody all of the required Miranda warning than the warning is technically incomplete.
However, Lee Rios claimed he simply could not understand what the officer was telling him because he was high on marijuana that was laced with PCP. In order to support this claim, the defendant pointed out the “weird noises” he was making during the interview with officers; noises he makes only when he is under the influence of PCP. During cross examination by the district attorney, it was made evident that Rios knew he could wait for a lawyer and that he did not have to talk to the police at all. Rios, a 24-year old man from Springfield is charged with the 2015 murder of an 18 year old Kenneth Lopez. During the interview with police, Rios told them he was a 6 or 7 on a scale of how high he was, with 10 being the highest variable.
If and when miranda warnings are required, the warning must be validly given to the defendant in custody, the defendant must make a voluntary and knowing waiver of said miranda rights, and the waiver must be done voluntarily without being intimidated or coerced. When determining whether the waiver was made voluntarily, factors the court must consider are the defendant’s conduct, the education, emotional stability, and the defendants experience in the criminal justice system among many others.
In support of his motion to suppress, Rios claims that when he has taken PCP in the past he has become paranoid and has trouble concentrating on what he is doing. At the time the murder occurred he was also under the influence of alcohol, arguing that he simply could not have made a voluntary and knowing waiver of his rights. Judge Constance M. Sweeney has taken the motion to suppress the statements under advisement and she is planning to re-watch the videotape of the police interrogation. You can read more about the case here.
If you are facing a criminal charge and believe that you did not knowingly and willingly waive your miranda rights due to drug or alcohol impairment, an important step you should take is to contact an experienced attorney at DelSignore Law. An attorney will be able to discuss the defenses available to your case and will be able to share their expertise on your case with you.