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Massachusetts Court Holds Informal Translation of Miranda Warnings Was Inadequate to Protect Defendant’s Fifth Amendment Rights

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts homicide case discussing whether the statements made by the defendant should be suppressed. The court held that the police did not safeguard the defendant’s rights by informally translating the Miranda warnings, and went further to hold that the cell site location information (CSLI) was a product of those statements. Thus, the court held that the CSLI data should also be suppressed.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant’s girlfriend was found dead in her car, with a gunshot wound to the head. The investigating officer noticed a surveillance camera nearby, and after showing the video to family members, the detective developed the defendant as a suspect.

Once police identified the defendant, they arrested him. At this point, police officers realized that the defendant would need to have his Miranda warning provided orally and in Spanish because he only spoke Spanish, and was illiterate in both English and Spanish. The detectives found an officer who spoke Spanish, but was not trained as a translator. This officer read the defendant his Miranda rights.

After the rights were read to the defendant, he continued to speak with the detectives, but denied all involvement. He told the officers that they could check his cell phone to prove that he was not involved. The defendant gave verbal permission to search his phone. Initially, police took all call logs, text messages, and contact information off the phone. However, ten days later, they applied for a search warrant for the CSLI data.

Initially, the trial judge granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the statement, but denied the motion to suppress the CSLI data. The defendant appealed. On appeal, the court held that the lower court accurately granted the defendant’s motion regarding his statements, but should have also allowed the motion regarding the CSLI data. The court explained that the translated Miranda warnings were insufficient to advise the defendant of all of his rights properly. For example, the officer did not mention that anything the defendant said could be used against him.

The court also determined that the CSLI data was only obtained based on the defendant’s statements and the search of the phone. Because the statements were suppressed, the court held the CSLI was illegally obtained and should also be suppressed.

Have You Been Arrested for a Serious Massachusetts Crime?

If you or someone you love has recently been arrested and charged with a serious Massachusetts crime, contact attorney Patrick J. Murphy. At the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, I represent clients facing Boston violent crimes, sex offenses, drug crimes, and weapons charges. I have extensive experience defending the rights of clients throughout the criminal trial process, starting before the arrest, through pre-trial, trial, and through appeal. I work hard to make sure that your recent arrest has as little impact on your life as possible. To learn more, and to schedule your free consultation today, call 617-367-0450. You can also contact me online.