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People v. Barrios

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

January 28, 2019

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant
Dominic Gabriel Barrios. Defendant-Appellee

          Interlocutory Appeal from the District Court Jefferson County District Court Case No. 17CR311 Honorable Philip McNulty, Chief Judge

          Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant: Peter A. Weir, District Attorney, First Judicial District Donna Skinner Reed, Chief Appellate Deputy District Attorney Golden, Colorado

          Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee: Megan A. Ring, Public Defender

          Katherine Powers Spengler, Supervising Deputy State Public Defender Golden, Colorado



         ¶1 In this interlocutory appeal, the People assert that the trial court erred in suppressing statements of the juvenile defendant, Dominic Barrios.[1] At issue is whether the police sufficiently advised Barrios and his legal guardian of his rights before he waived his Miranda rights and agreed to talk to the police, and whether his waiver was reliable under the totality of the circumstances. The trial court found that the prosecution failed to establish a reliable Miranda waiver for Barrios under section 19-2-511, C.R.S. (2018), and it ordered that his statements be suppressed. We hold that the police detective complied with section 19-2-511 when he advised Barrios and his legal guardian prior to Barrios's waiver and that, under the totality of the circumstances, the concerns identified by the trial court do not undermine the reliability of the waiver. Therefore, we reverse the trial court's order suppressing Barrios's statements, and we remand to that court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶2 H.J. completed her grocery shopping at a Target store in Arvada and walked to her car. Barrios was also at the Target. According to the arrest warrant, [2] after H.J. entered her vehicle, Barrios opened the back door, got in the back seat, put his arm around H.J.'s throat, pulled out a knife, and told her to drive. During the encounter, Barrios took money from H.J. and drove her car to several different locations before ending up at a secluded area, where he demanded that she undress, fondled her intimate parts, and forced her to fondle his. After driving to another isolated area, Barrios disabled H.J.'s phone and left her with her keys and her car. H.J. then drove to a friend's house and contacted the police.

         ¶3 The Arvada Police Department received the report from H.J. and began to gather evidence. Crime scene investigation detectives discovered and collected latent fingerprints from H.J.'s car. An Arvada detective ran the fingerprints through the system, which returned a match for Barrios. The address listed for Barrios was the home of his great-grandmother and legal guardian, Delma Trujillo. Arvada Police secured an arrest warrant for Barrios at that address, and it was executed by Denver SWAT at about 1 a.m., two days after the incident.

         ¶4 Detective Stephens, the lead investigator of the Arvada Police, arrived at Barrios's house at about 2 a.m. When Stephens arrived, Barrios was outside of the house being transferred from a marked Denver police vehicle to an Arvada police vehicle for his transport to the Arvada Police Department. Stephens wanted to interview Barrios. Because Barrios was a minor, Stephens sought to gain permission from Barrios's guardian and went inside Trujillo's house. Stephens found Trujillo sitting inside the house speaking with another detective. Trujillo was eighty-four years old and had been sleeping when police arrived. She identified herself to Stephens as Barrios's legal guardian, and Stephens asked her if she would be willing to accompany him back to the police station for a formal interview with Barrios. In response, Trujillo asked Stephens, "Did he kill anybody?" When Stephens said no, Trujillo told him that she was not willing to leave the house. By now it was approximately 2 a.m.; it was mid-January and it was cold outside. Stephens told her that he could give her a ride and that her presence "would be ideal." Trujillo reasserted that she did not want to leave the house. At that point, Stephens went out to the crime scene van to retrieve an advisement waiver form.

         ¶5 Before returning to Trujillo, Stephens filled out portions of the advisement waiver form, including the date, the case number, the time, whom the form pertained to, and a brief description of what he was investigating. Specifically, Stephens wrote, "Taking H[]'s car, carrying a knife, and touching H[]."[3] Stephens then brought the form to Trujillo and "went through the rights" with her, including Barrios's Miranda rights. Trujillo signed the form in two separate spots indicating that she understood Barrios's rights, approved of any decision he made or would make to talk to the police, and was willing to waive her presence during any questioning. Trujillo was not offered an opportunity to speak with Barrios before signing the waiver, nor did she ask to speak with Barrios. At this point, there were approximately ten police officers and investigators searching the house, although Stephens was the only person from law enforcement speaking with Trujillo. After Stephens finished speaking with Trujillo, he left and returned to the Arvada Police Department where Barrios was in custody.

         ¶6 Once Stephens arrived back at the police station, the booking officer informed him that Barrios wanted to speak with the lead investigator on the case. Barrios was taken to an interview room, where he was joined by Stephens. Stephens verbally advised Barrios of his Miranda rights and reiterated to Barrios that he did not have to speak with police. He also verbally advised Barrios that, since Barrios was a minor, he had an additional right to have a parent or guardian present at questioning. At that point, Stephens handed Barrios the advisement waiver form that Trujillo previously signed containing a written list of Barrios's rights, including his Miranda rights and, in boldface font, the right to have a parent or guardian present during questioning. Stephens read Barrios these rights and instructed him to put his initials next to each right if he understood the right. Barrios signed his initials next to each right. Before Barrios signed the waiver of rights form, however, he asked Stephens if his "rights would go out the window" if he signed. Stephens informed Barrios that his rights would not go away and that he could stop the interview at any time. Barrios then signed the advisement waiver form, acknowledging that he understood his rights-including the right to have a guardian present for the interview-and that he waived those rights. At that time, Stephens began questioning Barrios. Throughout the questioning, Stephens struck a casual tone with Barrios, using what the trial court described as a "young person's questioning mode . . . dropping the F-bomb and cussing." The trial court concluded that this method of questioning, while probably unprofessional, did not impact the voluntariness of Barrios's statements.

         ¶7 Over the course of just under an hour, Barrios told Stephens his version of what happened and corroborated much of what H.J. had told police. At times, Barrios disagreed with H.J.'s version of events, especially the allegations that he used a knife and sexually assaulted her. By the end of the interview, however, Barrios implicated himself in several serious offenses. Ultimately, the People charged Barrios as an adult with eighteen criminal counts, including kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and sexual assault.

         ¶8 Barrios moved to suppress the statements he gave to Stephens, claiming, as relevant here, that there was a lack of an express waiver of parental presence as required by section 19-2-511. At the end of the hearing, the trial court granted Barrios's motion to suppress his statements. In making its decision, the court discussed factors bearing on the reliability of a waiver of rights as articulated in Grant v. People, 48 P.3d 543, 549-50 (Colo. 2002). In granting the motion to suppress, however, the trial court relied primarily on two findings: (1) the advisement waiver form minimized the seriousness of the offenses, and (2) the police did not bring Barrios back to his house to give him an opportunity to consult with Trujillo prior to his Miranda waiver. The court also stated that "if this were an adult that the police were dealing with, the Court would have found that [Barrios] was fully advised pursuant to Miranda, waived his rights, and the statements were voluntary."

         ¶9 The People filed this interlocutory appeal as authorized by section 16-12-102(2), C.R.S. (2018), and C.A.R. 4.1.

         II. Analysis

         ¶10 We must determine, under the totality of the circumstances, whether the advisement waiver here was reliable. To make this determination, we begin by looking to the express provisions of section 19-2-511. Then, we evaluate the additional circumstances that bear on the reliability of the waiver. Finally, we hold, under the totality of the circumstances, that the police detective complied with section 19-2-511 when he advised Barrios and his legal guardian prior to Barrios's waiver.

         A. Standard of Review

         ¶11 A trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress presents a mixed question of fact and law. People v. Gothard, 185 P.3d 180, 183 (Colo. 2008). We defer to the trial court's factual findings if those findings are supported by competent evidence in the record; however, we review the trial court's legal conclusions de novo. Id.

         B. Miranda Advisement

         ¶12 Prior to any custodial interrogation, police officers must advise suspects of their constitutional rights to refrain from speaking with police and to have an attorney present during questioning. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966); People v. Platt, 81 P.3d 1060, 1065 (Colo. 2004). After a proper Miranda advisement, suspects may waive their rights, but the waiver must be "voluntary, knowing, and intelligent." Platt, 81 P.3d at 1065. The prosecution bears the burden of showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the waiver is reliable. Id. Courts evaluate the reliability of a suspect's Miranda waiver based on the totality of circumstances, and "no single factor is determinative." Id. The purpose of a Miranda advisement is to "guard against involuntary incriminating statements" made by a suspect during a custodial interrogation. People v. Probasco, 795 P.2d 1330, 1333 (Colo. 1990). In Colorado, juvenile suspects, even if charged as adults, are afforded an additional protection: Their parent or guardian must be given the opportunity to be present during any custodial interrogation prior to any decisions made by the juvenile as to whether to waive his or her Miranda rights. See § 19-2-511(1). That right can also be waived. See § 19-2-511(5). This court, however, will not evaluate the wisdom of the choice to waive. See People v. Janis, 2018 CO 89, ¶ 28, 429 P.3d. 1198, 1204.

         C. Section 19-2-511

         ¶13 Section 19-2-511 provides that statements made by juveniles during any custodial interrogation are generally not admissible unless a parent or legal guardian is present. § 19-2-511(1). Statements may be admissible without a guardian's presence, however, if both the guardian and the juvenile expressly waive the guardian's presence in writing after they both receive a full advisement of the juvenile's rights. § 19-2-511(5). Section 19-2-511 provides, in relevant part:

(1) No statements or admissions of a juvenile made as a result of the custodial interrogation of such juvenile by a law enforcement official concerning delinquent acts alleged to have been committed by the juvenile shall be admissible in evidence against such juvenile unless a parent, guardian, or legal or physical custodian of the juvenile was present at such interrogation . . . .
(5) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, the juvenile and his or her parent, guardian, or legal or physical custodian may expressly waive the requirement that the parent, guardian, or legal or physical custodian be present during the juvenile's interrogation. This express waiver must be in writing and must be obtained only after full advisement of the juvenile and his or her parent, guardian, or legal or physical custodian of the juvenile's rights prior to the taking of the custodial statement . . . .

(Emphases added.) The statute is designed to "ensure that any waiver of a juvenile's constitutional rights will be made knowingly and intelligently." People v. Lehmkuhl, 117 P.3d 98, 102 (Colo.App. 2004) (citing People v. Blankenship, 30 P.3d 698 (Colo.App. 2000)). In enacting section 19-2-511, the General Assembly "sought to ensure that the juvenile and parent were fully aware of the scope and content of the rights they were waiving and to impress upon them the importance of those rights." Grant, 48 P.3d at 549. To determine whether the juvenile received a proper Miranda advisement and responded with a reliable waiver, we first consider whether the express provisions of section 19-2-511 were satisfied. See People v. Barrow, 139 P.3d 636, 638 (Colo. 2006). If they were, we then look to all relevant factors that bear on the reliability of the waiver and decide, under the totality of the circumstances, whether the waiver was reliable. See Grant, 48 P.3d at 549-50.

         D. Grant and Barrow

         ¶14 The trial court looked to Grant and Barrow for direction. In Grant, we considered whether a juvenile advisement waiver that lacked the juvenile's signature nevertheless satisfied section 19-2-511's requirement that any waiver be in writing. Id. at 544. We held that it did. Id. Deeming the statute ambiguous, we noted the myriad circumstances that may be present in a juvenile waiver case that "may bear on the reliability of [the] waiver." Id. at 549. Specifically, we presented the following non-exhaustive list of factors: (1) "where, when, and at what stage in the proceedings the writing appeared"; (2) "whether the juvenile and parent agreed to the writing simultaneously or separately"; (3) "whether their consent was garnered in person"; (4) "whether they were offered ample opportunity to consult" with one another; (5) "whether they did consult, privately or with the police present"; (6) "whether the [juvenile and the guardian] were aware that the written waiver was a statutory requirement"; (7) "whether there existed any evidence that signatures, if present, were coerced"; and (8) "whether any other evidence supports or undermines the validity of the waiver." Id. at 549-50. We emphasized, however, that courts "should examine all relevant circumstances bearing on the reliability of the written waiver and uphold it when appropriately supported." Id. at 550. Ultimately, we held that the waiver of rights was reliable, noting that "the waiver was in writing, bore the signature of a parent, was obtained after full advisement, and was supported by ample evidence that the juvenile consented." Id. at 545.

         ¶15 In contrast to Grant, we found that the juvenile in Barrow "was not fully advised and did not expressly waive his right to have a parent present." 139 P.3d at 639. In Barrow, after police located and arrested the juvenile, they transported him to the police station and contacted his mother. Id. at 637. His mother came down to the police station and spoke with her son, first with police in the room and then in private; she then signed the advisement waiver form and went home. Id. Shortly thereafter, police advised the juvenile of his Miranda rights with the waiver form that his mother had signed. Id. at 638. He indicated that he understood his rights and signed the waiver form. Id. The advisement waiver form, however, did not inform the juvenile that he had a right to have a parent present during questioning, and police did not verbally advise him of that right. Id. at 639. We therefore held that the juvenile was not fully advised of his rights and therefore did not expressly waive his parental presence right pursuant to section 19-2-511. Id. With our understanding of these cases in mind, we now to turn to the instant matter and determine whether the advisement waiver here was reliable.

         E. ...

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