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B.A. v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

June 20, 2018

B.A., Appellant (Respondent),
State of Indiana, Appellee (Petitioner).

          Argued: October 30, 2017

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court, Juvenile Division, No. 49D09-1602-JD-234 The Honorable Marilyn A. Moores, Judge The Honorable Scott B. Stowers, Magistrate

          On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 49A02-1606-JV-1474

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Amy E. Karozos Greenwood, Indiana Ruth A. Johnson Indianapolis, Indiana.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Caryn N. Szyper Angela N. Sanchez Kelly A. Loy Deputy Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana.

          ATTORNEYS FOR AMICUS CURIAE CENTER ON WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS OF YOUTH Cara Schaefer Wieneke Wieneke Law Office, LLC Brooklyn, Indiana Laura Nirider Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Chicago, Illinois.



         The vital mission of educating our youth requires schools to daily provide safety, security, and student discipline. In recent decades, schools have turned to resource officers for help. These officers protect students and staff, offer mentorship-and, yes, help with discipline and criminal investigations. As their presence has grown, so too have questions of students' constitutional rights. Today we address for the first time one of those questions: when are students entitled to Miranda warnings at school?

         Here, in response to a bomb threat on a bathroom wall, thirteen-year-old B.A. was escorted from his bus and questioned in a vice-principal's office. Officers hovered over B.A. and encouraged him to confess, but no one gave him Miranda warnings.

         We hold that B.A. was in police custody and under police interrogation, so he should have been Mirandized. We therefore reverse his delinquency adjudications.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Scribbled in pink marker in a Decatur Middle School boys' bathroom came the threat: "I will Got A bomb in the school Monday 8th 2016 not A Joke." School Resource Officer Tutsie "immediately went into investigative mode" and soon narrowed the suspects to two students- including thirteen-year-old B.A.

         The next Monday, February 8, 2016, school resource officers and administrators walked through the school and found it safe. Then, when B.A.'s bus arrived, Vice-Principal Remaly and School Resource Officer Lyday removed B.A. from his bus and escorted him to Remaly's office.

         B.A. sat in front of Remaly's desk while Officer Lyday stood a few feet away. Early in B.A.'s interview, Officer Tutsie came in and took Officer Lyday's spot while Officer Lyday moved to sit at a conference table behind B.A. Around that same time, a third school resource officer- Officer Wheeler-came in and sat at the conference table. All three officers wore police uniforms.

         Vice-Principal Remaly led the interview, asking if B.A. knew why he was there. B.A. maintained that he did not. To see if B.A.'s handwriting matched the bomb threat, Officer Tutsie handed B.A. written sentences and told B.A. how to copy them.

         After B.A. copied the sentences, Remaly decided that the handwriting sample matched the threat and asked B.A. why he did it. Then Officer Lyday interrupted to say, "Come on, man, just-just tell the truth." B.A. started crying, lowered his head, and said "I don't know. I'm sorry." Remaly then ended the interview-which had lasted fifteen minutes-and called B.A.'s mother. When she arrived and asked B.A. what happened, he told her, "I'm sorry mom, it was a joke" and admitted that it was a dumb thing to do.

         With these admissions, Remaly suspended B.A. from school, pending expulsion. He then turned B.A. over to the school resource officers, who arrested him and took him to the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center.

         The State alleged that B.A. was delinquent for committing false reporting, a Level 6 felony if committed by an adult, and institutional criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor if committed by an adult. B.A. moved to suppress the evidence from his interview, arguing that he was entitled to Miranda warnings since he was under custodial interrogation and that officers failed to secure waiver of his Miranda rights under Indiana's juvenile waiver statute. See Ind. Code § 31-32-5-1 (2017). After a hearing, the juvenile court denied the motion and found B.A. delinquent on both counts.

         B.A. appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. B.A. v. State, 73 N.E.3d 720, 730 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017). It held that Miranda warnings were not required because a school administrator questioned B.A. for an educational purpose. Id. We granted transfer, vacating the Court of Appeals opinion. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).[1]

         Standard of Review

         We review the admission of B.A.'s incriminating statements for an abuse of discretion. See Snow v. State, 77 N.E.3d 173, 176 (Ind. 2017). But the underlying issue-whether B.A. was under custodial interrogation-is purely legal and entitled to de novo review. See State v. Brown, 70 N.E.3d 331, 335 (Ind. 2017). We thus first address whether B.A. was in police custody and then whether he was under police interrogation.

         Discussion and Decision

         The parties agree that Miranda warnings protect students at school but disagree whether B.A. was entitled to the warnings. The critical inquiry is whether he was under custodial interrogation. B.A. argues that he was in custody under the totality of the circumstances and that he was interrogated because police officers participated in his interview. The ...

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