Whether road side questioning falls under custodial interrogation, or can it be considered a formal arrest?

First, there was no valid arrest of petitioner. When he was flagged down for committing a traffic violation, he was not, ipso facto and solely for this reason, arrested.

Arrest is the taking of a person into custody in order that he or she may be bound to answer for the commission of an offense.[10] It is effected by an actual restraint of the person to be arrested or by that person’s voluntary submission to the custody of the one making the arrest. Neither the application of actual force, manual touching of the body, or physical restraint, nor a formal declaration of arrest, is required. It is enough that there be an intention on the part of one of the parties to arrest the other, and that there be an intent on the part of the other to submit, under the belief and impression that submission is necessary.[11]

Under R.A. 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, the general procedure for dealing with a traffic violation is not the arrest of the offender, but the confiscation of the driver’s license of the latter:

SECTION 29. Confiscation of Driver’s License. — Law enforcement and peace officers of other agencies duly deputized by the Director shall, in apprehending a driver for any violation of this Act or any regulations issued pursuant thereto, or of local traffic rules and regulations not contrary to any provisions of this Act, confiscate the license of the driver concerned and issue a receipt prescribed and issued by the Bureau therefor which shall authorize the driver to operate a motor vehicle for a period not exceeding seventy-two hours from the time and date of issue of said receipt. The period so fixed in the receipt shall not be extended, and shall become invalid thereafter. Failure of the driver to settle his case within fifteen days from the date of apprehension will be a ground for the suspension and/or revocation of his license.

            Similarly, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Operations Manual[12] provides the following procedure for flagging down vehicles during the conduct of checkpoints:

SECTION 7. Procedure in Flagging Down or Accosting Vehicles While in Mobile Car. This rule is a general concept and will not apply in hot pursuit operations. The mobile car crew shall undertake the following, when applicable: x x x

  1. If it concerns traffic violations, immediately issue a Traffic Citation Ticket (TCT) or Traffic Violation Report (TVR). Never indulge in prolonged, unnecessary conversation or argument with the driver or any of the vehicle’s occupants;

At the time that he was waiting for PO3 Alteza to write his citation ticket, petitioner could not be said to have been “under arrest.” There was no intention on the part of PO3 Alteza to arrest him, deprive him of his liberty, or take him into custody. Prior to the issuance of the ticket, the period during which petitioner was at the police station may be characterized merely as waiting time. In fact, as found by the trial court, PO3 Alteza himself testified that the only reason they went to the police sub-station was that petitioner had been flagged down “almost in front” of that place. Hence, it was only for the sake of convenience that they were waiting there. There was no intention to take petitioner into custody.

In Berkemer v. McCarty,[13] the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court discussed at length whether the roadside questioning of a motorist detained pursuant to a routine traffic stop should be considered custodial interrogation. The Court held that, such questioning does not fall under custodial interrogation, nor can it be considered a formal arrest, by virtue of the nature of the questioning, the expectations of the motorist and the officer, and the length of time the procedure is conducted. It ruled as follows:

It must be acknowledged at the outset that a traffic stop significantly curtails the “freedom of action” of the driver and the passengers, if any, of the detained vehicle. Under the law of most States, it is a crime either to ignore a policeman’s signal to stop one’s car or, once having stopped, to drive away without permission. x x x

However, we decline to accord talismanic power to the phrase in the Miranda opinion emphasized by respondent. Fidelity to the doctrine announced in Miranda requires that it be enforced strictly, but only in those types of situations in which the concerns that powered the decision are implicated. Thus, we must decide whether a traffic stop exerts upon a detained person pressures that sufficiently impair his free exercise of his privilege against self-incrimination to require that he be warned of his constitutional rights.

Two features of an ordinary traffic stop mitigate the danger that a person questioned will be induced “to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely,” Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S., at 467. First, detention of a motorist pursuant to a traffic stop is presumptively temporary and brief. The vast majority of roadside detentions last only a few minutes. A motorist’s expectations, when he sees a policeman’s light flashing behind him, are that he will be obliged to spend a short period of time answering questions and waiting while the officer checks his license and registration, that he may then be given a citation, but that in the end he most likely will be allowed to continue on his way. In this respect, questioning incident to an ordinary traffic stop is quite different from stationhouse interrogation, which frequently is prolonged, and in which the detainee often is aware that questioning will continue until he provides his interrogators the answers they seek. See id., at 451.

Second, circumstances associated with the typical traffic stop are not such that the motorist feels completely at the mercy of the police. To be sure, the aura of authority surrounding an armed, uniformed officer and the knowledge that the officer has some discretion in deciding whether to issue a citation, in combination, exert some pressure on the detainee to respond to questions. But other aspects of the situation substantially offset these forces. Perhaps most importantly, the typical traffic stop is public, at least to some degree. x x x

In both of these respects, the usual traffic stop is more analogous to a so-called “Terry stop,” see Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 (1968), than to a formal arrest. x x x The comparatively nonthreatening character of detentions of this sort explains the absence of any suggestion in our opinions that Terry stops are subject to the dictates of Miranda. The similarly noncoercive aspect of ordinary traffic stops prompts us to hold that persons temporarily detained pursuant to such stops are not “in custody” for the purposes of Miranda.

x x x                            x x x                            x x x

We are confident that the state of affairs projected by respondent will not come to pass. It is settled that the safeguards prescribed by Miranda become applicable as soon as a suspect’s freedom of action is curtailed to a “degree associated with formal arrest.” California v. Beheler, 463 U. S. 1121, 1125 (1983) (per curiam). If a motorist who has been detained pursuant to a traffic stop thereafter is subjected to treatment that renders him “in custody” for practical purposes, he will be entitled to the full panoply of protections prescribed by Miranda. See Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U. S. 492, 495 (1977) (per curiam). (Emphasis supplied.)

 

            The U.S. Court in Berkemer thus ruled that, since the motorist therein was only subjected to modest questions while still at the scene of the traffic stop, he was not at that moment placed under custody (such that he should have been apprised of his Miranda rights), and neither can treatment of this sort be fairly characterized as the functional equivalent of a formal arrest. Similarly, neither can petitioner here be considered “under arrest” at the time that his traffic citation was being made.

          It also appears that, according to City Ordinance No. 98-012, which was violated by petitioner, the failure to wear a crash helmet while riding a motorcycle is penalized by a fine only. Under the Rules of Court, a warrant of arrest need not be issued if the information or charge was filed for an offense penalized by a fine only. It may be stated as a corollary that neither can a warrantless arrest be made for such an offense.

          This ruling does not imply that there can be no arrest for a traffic violation. Certainly, when there is an intent on the part of the police officer to deprive the motorist of liberty, or to take the latter into custody, the former may be deemed to have arrested the motorist. In this case, however, the officer’s issuance (or intent to issue) a traffic citation ticket negates the possibility of an arrest for the same violation.

          Even if one were to work under the assumption that petitioner was deemed “arrested” upon being flagged down for a traffic violation and while awaiting the issuance of his ticket, then the requirements for a valid arrest were not complied with.

This Court has held that at the time a person is arrested, it shall be the duty of the arresting officer to inform the latter of the reason for the arrest and must show that person the warrant of arrest, if any. Persons shall be informed of their constitutional rights to remain silent and to counsel, and that any statement they might make could be used against them.[14] It may also be noted that in this case, these constitutional requirements were complied with by the police officers only after petitioner had been arrested for illegal possession of dangerous drugs.

In Berkemer, the U.S. Court also noted that the Miranda warnings must also be given to a person apprehended due to a traffic violation:

The purposes of the safeguards prescribed by Miranda are to ensure that the police do not coerce or trick captive suspects into confessing, to relieve the “inherently compelling pressures” “generated by the custodial setting itself,” “which work to undermine the individual’s will to resist,” and as much as possible to free courts from the task of scrutinizing individual cases to try to determine, after the fact, whether particular confessions were voluntary. Those purposes are implicated as much by in-custody questioning of persons suspected of misdemeanors as they are by questioning of persons suspected of felonies.

            If it were true that petitioner was already deemed “arrested” when he was flagged down for a traffic violation and while he waiting for his ticket, then there would have been no need for him to be arrested for a second time—after the police officers allegedly discovered the drugs—as he was already in their custody.

http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2012/february2012/197788.htm

About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Arrest, Land Transportation and Traffic Code and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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