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Name: U.S. v. Bassignani
Case #: 07-10453
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 03/25/2009

Police officers must give the suspect his Miranda warnings before interrogating him only if the suspect is “in custody.” A suspect is in custody if a reasonable, innocent person in such circumstances would conclude that after a brief period of questioning, he was not free to leave. Bassignani became the target of a child pornography investigation after Yahoo Inc., reported a user, subsequently traced to Bassignani, had uploaded child pornographic images to Yahoo sites. Investigators obtained a warrant for Bassignani’s workplace and other locations. Going to the workplace, they contacted Bassignani and interrogated him in the business conference room. They did not advise him of his Miranda rights, although they did tell him he was not under arrest and was free to leave. The appellate court reversed the district court ruling granting the motion to suppress the statements obtained in the interrogation, finding that, although it was a close call, Bassignani, failed to meet his burden of proving he was in custody. The appellate court identified the following five factors which can be relevant to custody determination: 1) the language used to summon suspect to interrogation; 2) the extent to which the suspect is confronted with evidence of guilt; 3) the physical surroundings of the interrogation; 4) the duration of detention; and 5) the degree of pressure applied to the suspect. Here, Bassignani was not confronted with evidence of guilt, he was in familiar surroundings; and he was not pressured. Although he was directed/ordered to go to the conference room and the interrogation was lengthy, under the totality of circumstances, the appellate court found the interrogation was not custodial.