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People v. Compos

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Fifth Division

December 5, 2019

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Vincent Joseph Compos, Defendant-Appellant.

          Pueblo County District Court No. 16CR254 Honorable Thomas B. Flesher, Judge

          Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General, Rebecca A. Adams, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee

          Megan A. Ring, Colorado State Public Defender, Julia Chamberlin, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant


          TOW JUDGE.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Vincent Joseph Compos, appeals from a judgment of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of criminal impersonation and false reporting to authorities. As a matter of first impression, we hold that when an individual is interrogated in violation of Miranda, and the response to the questioning is itself a criminal act such as providing a false identity, Miranda's exclusionary rule will not bar admission of the statement at a subsequent trial involving charges based on the criminal act. We therefore affirm the judgment.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 According to the prosecution's evidence, police arrested Compos at the home of the victim, a woman whom Compos had previously dated. Compos had previously been arrested and charged with domestic violence crimes against the victim, which had resulted in a protection order being issued against Compos.[1]On the night of his arrest, Compos appeared unexpectedly at the victim's home and, according to the victim, pointed a gun at her and one of her children, threatening to kill them. The victim called the police and fled.

         ¶ 3 The victim reported to the police that Compos was at her home in violation of the protection order and that he had assaulted her. Two officers confronted Compos while he was inside the victim's home. At that time, he identified himself as "J.R."

         ¶ 4 The officers arrested Compos. Later, as he was standing next to a police car in handcuffs, a third officer asked Compos his name and he replied, "John Rocha." Compos also volunteered a date of birth that matched John Rocha's identity. Afterward, officers discovered that Compos had provided a false name and date of birth in response to the officer's question.

         ¶ 5 Compos was charged with felony menacing, criminal impersonation, violation of bail bond conditions, and violation of a protection order. At Compos's request, the trial court bifurcated the proceedings, and Compos was first tried for felony menacing and criminal impersonation. The jury found him not guilty of felony menacing but guilty of criminal impersonation and the lesser nonincluded offense of false reporting to authorities. Compos later pleaded guilty to a single count of violating a protection order in exchange for dismissal of the remaining charges.

         ¶ 6 On appeal, Compos contends that the trial court erred by (1) failing to suppress his post-arrest statement giving a false name and (2) declining to grant a mistrial after the victim testified about his prior bad acts.

         II. Suppression of Statement

         ¶ 7 Before trial, Compos moved to suppress his statement to the officer that his name was "John Rocha" on the ground that it had been obtained in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion, concluding that the officer's question was a "standard question of identification" that was "consistent with when [Compos] would be booked into jail." Accordingly, the trial court found that the question did not constitute "custodial interrogation."

         ¶ 8 At trial, the prosecution relied on Compos's statement to support the charges of criminal impersonation and false reporting to authorities.

         A. Standard of Review

         ¶ 9 When considering a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, we defer to its findings of fact if they are supported by the record but review its conclusions of law de novo. People v. Mejia-Mendoza, 965 P.2d 777, 780 (Colo. 1998); People v. Allen, 199 P.3d 33, 35 (Colo.App. 2007). However, "appellate courts have the discretion to affirm decisions, particularly denial of suppression motions, on any basis for which there is a record sufficient to permit conclusions of law, even though they may be on grounds other than those relied upon by the trial court." Moody v. People, 159 P.3d 611, 615 (Colo. 2007).

         B. Analysis

         ¶ 10 The United States Constitution provides that no person "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." U.S. Const. amend. V; see also Colo. Const. art. II, § 18. To protect this right against self-incrimination, Miranda provides that a "suspect's statements made during a custodial interrogation are inadmissible unless the suspect received adequate advisement of his constitutional rights." People v. J.D., 989 P.2d 762, 768 (Colo. 1999). ...

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