COA differs on when 'critical stage' starts

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A panel of Indiana Court of Appeals judges agreed that a defendant's motion to suppress evidence of a polygraph test should have been granted by the trial court. But the judges had differing reasons for granting the reversal of the trial court, with the majority deviating from precedent on when the right to counsel begins.

In Thomas E. Caraway v. State of Indiana, No. 47A01-0709-CR-416, Thomas Caraway appealed the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress and exclude all evidence of a polygraph examination. Caraway, who had difficulty reading, was read the stipulation agreement by a detective, who didn't mention a Miranda warning or notify Caraway of his right to counsel regarding the polygraph examination. It wasn't until an Indiana State trooper read Caraway his Miranda warnings from a form - including the right to seek the assistance of counsel - right before Caraway was to take the test that he was made aware of that right.

The judges looked to previous caselaw and the federal and Indiana Constitutions to determine whether Caraway's motion should have been granted by the trial court. In Kochersperger v. State, 725 N.E.2d 918 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000), Kochersperger signed an agreement to undergo a polygraph examination after he was read his Miranda warning and was advised of his right to counsel. He later raised a motion to suppress the results of the polygraph test, which the trial court denied.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial because Kochersperger was fully advised of his right to counsel and waived that right. That panel also stated the filing of an indictment or information begins the formal criminal process, and because Kochersperger hadn't been arrested, arraigned or indicted during the polygraph test, those periods didn't constitute critical stages of criminal proceedings that required a right to counsel.

However, in the instant case, the majority disagreed with the Kochersperger court and other Indiana caselaw, and ruled the right to counsel can attach earlier than the initiation of criminal proceedings.

"In this case, the application of Kochersperger would derogate from the protections guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment and the Indiana Constitution," wrote Judge Patricia Riley for the majority. "... Although Caraway was not arrested, arraigned, or indicted at the time he stipulated to the polygraph, he waived any objection to the admission of an unreliable form of potentially incriminating evidence. This can be nothing less than a critical stage."

When a defendant finds him or herself in a critical stage, their right to counsel can't be denied simply because they haven't been formally indicted yet, she continued. As a result, the absence of Caraway's right to an attorney derogated his right to a fair trial and because he was never informed of his right to counsel before stipulating to the results of the polygraph test, he couldn't have waived it.

Judge Margret Robb concurred in result in a separate opinion but disagreed as to why the trial court should have granted Caraway's motion to suppress. As a concurring judge in Kochersperger, Judge Robb wrote she continues to believe the right of counsel doesn't attach until criminal proceedings are initiated by the filing of an information or indictment.

"The timing of the advice of rights is an important distinction between Kochersperger and this case," she wrote. "On the basis that Caraway was not advised of and did not waive his right to counsel before signing the stipulation, rather than on the basis of the Sixth Amendment, I agree that the trial court should have granted Caraway's motion to suppress, and I therefore concur in result."

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues