ANDREWS and BROWN, JJ.
State appeals the grant of a motion to suppress a statement
given by a high school student during the school's
attempt to determine why another student was found
unconscious in the school restroom. We reverse.
March 8, 2016, the victim, a ninth grade student at Villa
Rica High School, was found unconscious in the school
restroom. He revived but could not recall what had happened.
The assistant principal reviewed hallway surveillance video
and observed the victim enter the restroom with the
defendant, Hunter Daniell, and another student, Shane Black.
Shortly thereafter, a third student entered the restroom as
well. Because Daniell and Black exited the restroom without
the victim, they were called to the administrative offices,
with Daniel being interviewed in the principal's office
and Black being interviewed in the assistant principal's
office. At first, Daniell told the principal that he had no
idea what happened, but later changed his story and stated he
thought the third student who entered the restroom may have
hit the victim. But the principal and assistant principal had
observed Daniell and Black texting each other and suspected
they were trying to coordinate their stories.
Michelle Moore, a corporal with the Villa Rica Police
Department who served as the high school's resource
officer, was summoned to the principal's office. The
assistant principal told her he had seen the two texting
about saying Hunter Dean had struck the victim. At first,
Officer Moore didn't know whether the victim had just had
a medical problem or if the third student had attacked him,
and she didn't consider Daniell as a suspect; she just
wanted to find out if Daniell knew what happened. She
suspected Daniell and Black knew more than what they were
telling, and because the two had been texting each other, she
seized their cell phones as evidence and informed them she
would be requesting a search warrant. Daniell's mother
arrived soon afterwards and told her son to not cover up for
anybody and to tell what he knew about the incident. Daniell
then stated that he choked the victim until he was
unconscious and then dropped him to the floor.
expected that admission. Officer Moore decided she needed to
tell the victim's mother, who had taken her son to the
emergency room. She asked Daniell if he was willing to write
a statement while she made the call, and Daniell did so. When
she called the victim's mother, Officer Moore didn't
know whether the matter would be handled administratively
through the school or through a criminal prosecution. At that
point, Daniel was not under arrest; he was not restrained; he
was free to leave, and there was even a nearby exit door
leading to the parking lot; and he was unsupervised while
Officer Moore stepped out of the room and went to the
reception area to make the call. But when the victim's
mother indicated she wanted Daniell prosecuted, Officer Moore
returned and placed him under arrest for aggravated assault.
trial court found that after Officer Moore seized
Daniell's cell phone, the situation became a custodial
interrogation requiring the Miranda warnings.
Because Officer Moore had not informed Daniell of his rights
before his subsequent oral and written admissions, the trial
court suppressed those statements. On appeal, the State
contends the trial court erred in finding there was a
custodial interrogation that implicated the Miranda
enforcement officers are required to give Miranda
warnings prior to questioning only where the subject is in
police custody, having either been formally arrested or
restrained to an extent associated with such an arrest. Where
one has not been arrested, he will be considered to be in
custody only under circumstances where a reasonable person in
the same situation would perceive that he was deprived of his
freedom of action in a meaningful way." Jacobs v.
State, 338 Ga.App. 743, 745 (791 S.E.2d 844) (2016).
trial court must consider the totality of the circumstances
to determine whether a reasonable person would believe he is
not at liberty to leave. Factors indicating a defendant is
not in custody include that the defendant voluntarily
accompanied an officer to another location, that the officer
told the defendant he was not under arrest or otherwise in
custody, that the defendant was allowed to speak to others,
and that the defendant was not handcuffed or otherwise
restrained." Id. at 745. (Citation omitted.)
instant case, Daniell was in the school principal's
office; he had been called there by the school principal, not
Officer Moore. When Officer Moore arrived, she did not think
of Daniell as a suspect and did not treat him like one. She
was simply trying to find out what had caused a student to
end up unconscious on the restroom floor. Daniell was allowed
to speak to his mother, and actually it was his mother who
elicited Daniell's statement. Daniell was not restrained
while he was in the principal's office. Even after
Daniell admitted choking the victim, Officer Moore never
restrained him or told him he was not free to leave, and she
left him entirely unsupervised, with a clearly marked exit
door near the office, while she left the room to contact the
victim's mother. Being called to the principal's
office did not constitute an arrest, and being questioned by
his own mother did not constitute a police interrogation. No
doubt, under the circumstances, Daniell had reason to feel he
was in some trouble, but this situation did not transform
into a custodial interrogation, even after Officer Moore took
away his cell phone. Considering the totality of the
circumstances in this case, we conclude that a reasonable
person would not perceive he was deprived of his freedom of
action in a meaningful way.
Daniell were considered to have been in custody, the fact
that his own mother elicited the statement militates against
suppression of the statement. "Numerous cases hold that
Miranda is not implicated when a suspect in custody
is questioned or encouraged to confess by a father, mother,
wife, or girl friend." Cook v. State, 270 Ga.
820, 826 (2) (514 S.E.2d 657) (1999).
the trial court should not have suppressed Daniell's
Miller, P. J., and ...