April 3, 2024 By Paul Wallin

Never Talk To Someone In A Jail Cell With You As You May Be Talking To A Cop

People v. Felix

The Miranda Rights are a critical component of the criminal justice process, designed to protect an individual’s Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Stemming from the landmark 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, these rights must be read by law enforcement officers to a suspect before questioning them in custody. The Miranda Rights include informing the suspect of their right to remain silent, that anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law, their right to an attorney, and if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for them at no cost. While Miranda Rights must be read before an arrest is made, they do not necessarily have to be read when an undercover cop is posing as a cellmate in jail as shown in People v. Felix.

Background

While driving in Utah, the Defendant was pulled over for a traffic violation. After asking for his license and registration, the police officer asked for consent to search the vehicle, which the Defendant gave. Upon searching, the police officer found, among other things, drugs and a gun. The Defendant was then arrested. After the arrest, investigators connected the Defendant to a set of murders that occurred in California days prior to his arrest. The Defendant was read his Miranda Rights and the Defendant refused to speak with the police. Afterwards, an undercover police officer was placed in the same holding cell as the Defendant, posing as the Defendant’s cellmate. The undercover police officer did not inform the Defendant of his position as a police officer, nor did he read the Defendant his Miranda Rights. While in the holding cell, the Defendant made incriminating statements to the undercover police officer which was later used as evidence at trial. 

The court, citing previous case rulings, held that an “undercover law enforcement officer posing as a fellow inmate need not give Miranda warnings to an incarcerated suspect before asking questions that may elicit an incriminating response.” The court reasoned that, in the environment of a holding cell, a “police-dominated atmosphere” is not present, and the inmate is not coerced to confess or say anything incriminating against himself. 

Protecting Yourself from Making Incriminating Statements

In prior cases similar to Felix, Justice Brennan held the view that if a person suspected of a crime invoked his right to counsel or his right to remain silent under the Miranda Rights, he would have to knowingly waive those rights before any incriminating statement could be used against him. In short, Justice Brennan believed that if you invoked your right to remain silent, a later incriminating statement made to an undercover police officer in a holding cell cannot be used against you. Nonetheless, the court in Felix held that these statements can be used to convict you because you were not coerced to confess or make any incriminating statements. Cases such as Felix serve as a reminder that outrageous police behavior, such as posing as a cellmate to get a confession, are legally allowed and could later be used to secure a conviction against you. 

At Wallin & Klarich, we always advise our clients to never speak to the police and never waive their Miranda Rights. However, this is not always enough to protect yourself. As shown in People v. Felix, the police are allowed to pose as a fellow inmate in an effort to get you to confess to a crime, or to make incriminating statements that can be used against you. Many times, even if you refuse to talk to the police and are placed in custody, the police will still try to get a confession from you. Furthermore, any confession or incriminating statements made to an undercover police officer posing as a cellmate can and likely will be used against you at trial.

The only way to fully protect yourself from having these incriminating statements or confessions used against you is to remain silent, even when you believe you are safe to talk freely. This includes not talking about your case while in your holding cell because your “cellmate” could very well be an undercover police officer trying to get a confession from you. 

Call Us Today

If you unknowingly made incriminating statements to an undercover police officer, you need an aggressive defense attorney to fight for your freedom. With 40+ years of experience, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have helped thousands of clients win their cases or get their charges reduced to a lesser degree. We know the most effective defenses to argue on your behalf, and we will do everything in our power to help you achieve the best possible result in your case. 

You may not be aware of all your options. Calling our office costs you nothing, but picking up the phone could be the difference between years in prison and years of freedom. Let our skilled attorneys examine your case to find the best way to help you.  We have offices in Irvine, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Torrance, Victorville and Anaheim.

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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