Court Overturns Defendant's Conviction


police officer

Case: People v. Edwards

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )

Issues:

Applicability of MCL 750.479c(2);”Serious misdemeanor” defined; MCL 780.811(1)(a)(xiv); MCL 750.479c(5)(c); Sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction for lying to a police officer during a police investigation; MCL 750.479c(1)(b); Statutory interpretation; People v. Thomas; People v. Borchard-Ruhland; People v. Flick; “Inform” defined; Right against self-incrimination; Miranda v. Arizona; Custodial interrogation; People v. Steele; Roadside questioning; People v. Burton; Plain error review; People v. Carines; Ineffective assistance of counsel; Prejudice; People v. Gioglio (On Remand); Operating while intoxicated (OWI); Driving while license suspended (DWLS)

Summary:

Holding that there was insufficient evidence to support defendant’s conviction for lying to an officer (H) during an investigation because there was no evidence H informed him that he was being investigated for OWI, the court vacated his conviction under MCL 750.479c(2)(c). However, it affirmed his OWI, third offense and DWLS convictions, concluding that while he was arguably subjected to a custodial interrogation, there was no reasonable probability the trial’s outcome would have been different had his statements been suppressed. As to his argument that he could not be convicted under MCL 750.479c, it found that he improperly conflated the elements of the crime, set forth in MCL 750.479c(1), with the penalty for committing it, set forth in MCL 750.479c(2). He was “not immune to prosecution under MCL 750.479 simply because, at the time he was investigated,” H did not necessarily know what crime defendant “would eventually be charged with committing.” However, the court agreed with his claim that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction of lying to an officer during a police investigation. He contended he was never informed by H that H was conducting a criminal investigation. As the statute does not define “inform,” the court consulted a dictionary, and held that, “under the plain language of the statute, in order to satisfy the first element, a police officer must communicate to the defendant that he or she is conducting a criminal investigation. Moreover, because only false or misleading statements regarding ‘that investigation,’ are prohibited under MCL 750.479c(1)(c), the officer must specifically tell the defendant what crime the officer is investigating.” The court rejected the prosecution’s argument that this element was met because defendant was aware H was investigating him for OWI. The statute “expressly requires that the person be informed by the police officer that the officer is conducting a criminal investigation into a specific matter.” There was no evidence H actually informed him that he was investigating whether he was operating under the influence.

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