By Evelyn Norton

Today, in an unpublished per curiam opinion, United States v. Hartsoe, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina convicting Jerry Elmo Hartsoe of mail fraud and making false statements.

Hartsoe Argued His Statements Were Improperly Admitted into Evidence

In the District Court, the jury convicted Hartsoe of eight counts of mail fraud and one count of making false statements.

On appeal, Hartsoe argued that the Fourth Circuit should vacate the District Court’s decision.  Hartsoe alleged that the District Court improperly allowed into evidence statements Hartsoe made before law enforcement read Hartsoe his Miranda Rights.

Miranda Warnings are Not Required if the Suspect is Not in Custody

Citing Miranda v. Arizona, the Fourth Circuit stated that Miranda warnings are indisputably required when a suspect is interrogated while in custody.  For Miranda purposes, a suspect is “in custody” when the suspect’s freedom of action is curtailed to a degree associated with formal arrest.  Thus, a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would believe he was “in custody.”

Hartsoe Was Not In Custody

Here, however, the Fourth Circuit determined that Hartsoe’s presence was voluntary.  When Hartsoe first arrived to the scene, law enforcement asked Hartsoe to leave.  Hartsoe’s testimony indicated he was not intimidated, but was aggressive and demanding at the scene.  Later, law enforcement told Hartsoe that he was not under arrest and was free to leave.  As a result, the Fourth Circuit found it unlikely that a reasonable person in Hartsoe’s position would have believed himself to be in custody.  Thus, no Miranda warnings were required and Hartsoe’s statements were properly admitted into evidence.

Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Affirmed

The Fourth Circuit Affirmed Hartsoe’s convictions, finding the District Court did not err in allowing Hartsoe’s statements into evidence.