Factors to consider in determining custody

Written By: Reid
Jan 11, 2021

Attorney James Manak prepared an article for John E. Reid and Associates in which he discusses several court decisions which addressed the issue of what are the proper factors to consider in making the determination of whether the subject was in custody at the time of their questioning. In one of the cases the court discussed the Staats factors:

"Six factors have been identified to consider whether a suspect is in custody:

(1) the police interviewing the suspect at the police station; (2) the suspect being told he or she is a prime suspect in a crime; (3) the police restraining the suspect’s freedom of movement; (4) the suspect making a significantly incriminating statement; (5) the presence of multiple officers; and (6) a gun pointing at the suspect.

Id. (citing State v. Staats, 658 N.W.2d 207, 211 (Minn. 2003) (quotation omitted)). “The mere fact that an interrogation occurs at the police station,”or the mere fact that a suspect makes “a significantly incriminating statement does not automatically convert a noncustodial interrogation into a custodial interrogation.” Id.

Additional factors may combine to indicate that a suspect is not in custody. Those are:

(1) questioning the suspect in his or her home; (2) law enforcement expressly informing the suspect that he or she is not under arrest; (3) the suspect’s leaving the police station without hindrance; (4) the brevity of the questioning; (5) the suspect’s ability to leave at anytime; (6) the existence of a nonthreatening environment; and (7) the suspect’s ability to make phone calls.

Id. (citing Thompson, 788 N.W.2d at 491-92). These two sets of factors are jointly known as the Staats factors. See Thompson, 788 N.W.2d at 492.