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Miranda Violation Leads to Reversal

In an initially unpublished opinion filed on August 25, 2009, a Washington appellate court reversed a district court ruling allowing into evidence an incriminating response on a medical questionnaire performed by jail personnel during the booking process. The case involved Virginia Lynn Denney, who was arrested on June 18, 2007 for shoplifting and charged with theft and possession of a controlled substance (morphine). During the booking process, jail staff administered a "standard questionnaire" for the purpose of determining proper housing and bail suitability. In response to questions on the survey, Denney admitted to having ingested morphine within the previous 72 hours. Following her conviction on the possession charge, Denney appealed the admissibility of her incriminating statements.

The state argued that routine questions are not considered "interrogations" and are, therefore, not in violation of Miranda rights. The court determined, however, that questions directly relevant to charges against a prisoner that invite an incriminating response are not routine. In light of the drug possession charge pending against Denney, her statements regarding recent drug use should have been judged inadmissible. Consequently, the district court ruling to allow the statements was reversed on appeal.

See: Denney v. Washington, WA. App. Ct., Div. II, # 37529-0-II.

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Related legal case

Denney v. Washington