A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

By Burt Rose

COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellant, v. Lazaro Rodriguez BAEZ, Appellee, 2011 WL 1957697, 2011 PA Super 109, No. 908 MDA 2010 (May 23, 2011), is an appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County, Criminal Division at No.: CP–38–CR–0000583–2009. The case was before Judges BENDER, DONOHUE and OTT. The OPINION was by Judge BENDER.

The police gave Defendant his Miranda warnings and asked him if he understood those rights, to which Defendant answered in the affirmative. Defendant then proceeded to answer the officer’s questions. Importantly, the police did not ask him if he was willing to give up his rights or whether he was willing to waive those rights prior to questioning him.

The Commonwealth appealed from the trial court’s order granting the Defendant’s motion to suppress. The Superior Court ruled that after a defendant is given his or her Miranda rights, a statement by the defendant that he understands those rights followed by the answering of questions posed by the interrogating officer constitutes a sufficient manifestation of a defendant’s intent to waive those rights so as to satisfy state constitutional protections.

In the instant case, the trial court held that Defendant had not expressly waived his rights for two reasons. First, the police did not ask Defendant if he was willing to waive his rights and second, Defendant did not execute a written waiver of his rights. However, the Panel concluded that neither of these factors is a prerequisite for finding that a defendant has expressly waived his or her rights. Here, Defendant proceeded to answer the officer’s questions; therefore, the Court was satisfied that this constituted a sufficient manifestation of an intent to waive one’s Miranda rights. Accordingly, the trial court had erred in granting Defendant’s motion to suppress.

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