Evidence • Admissibility • Sex Offender Status

In the Interest of C.O., PICS Case No. 14-0007 (Pa. Super. Jan. 3, 2014) Musmanno, J. (17 pages).

Appellant Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appealed the juvenile court’s order suppressing the statements made by appellee C.O. The appellate court affirmed suppression.

C.O. was placed into the custody of La-Sa-Quik, a residential treatment facility for adolescent male sex offenders, following adjudication on felony sexual offenses against three children. La-Sa-Quik is a mandatory reporter for sexual offenses. During treatment, C.O. admitted to sexual assault against a fourth child for which he was not charged. The counselor advised C.O. she was a mandatory reporter and had him sign a Sexual Offender Disclosure Form without advising C.O. of his legal rights. A supervisor contacted C.O. via telephone whereby C.O. made incriminating statements regarding his sexual offense against a fourth, uncharged victim; again, C.O. was not informed of his legal rights or rights to speak with his attorney.

The commonwealth filed a delinquency petition on behalf of the fourth victim. C.O. moved to suppress his statements and a juvenile court granted suppression. The commonwealth appealed, arguing Miranda warnings were not required as La-Sa-Quik employees were not law enforcement officials or acting as agents for the commonwealth, nor was C.O. handcuffed or under duress during the interviews. Further, the commonwealth argued C.O. signed a confidential form indicating his conversations were limited as to confidentiality.

The appellate court affirmed suppression reasoning that C.O. was in the custody of La-Sa-Quik pursuant to his original adjudication order. As part of the order to successfully complete treatment, C.O. was directed to answer questions not only about the offenses that resulted in his commitment, but also about any other undisclosed and uncharged sexual misconduct. Thus it was clear that requiring C.O. to speak about crimes for which he was not adjudicated, and which resulted in incriminating responses, constituted interrogation requiring Miranda warnings. The appellate court held that although the counselors were not police officers, they were required to provide Miranda warnings to C.O. As no Miranda warnings were issued, the juvenile court properly suppressed C.O. statements regarding a fourth victim.