Florida’s 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently explained that police confessions can be used in court to prosecute sex crimes and other offenses, even if the person who made the confession was intoxicated at the time.
Mr. Arvelo was arrested and charged with attempted sexual battery and kidnapping with the intent to commit sexual battery, stemming from a 2006 incident in a Maitland parking garage. He allegedly attacked a woman as she was getting out of her car, and then he dragged the woman to Arvelo’s car. Arvelo was unable to start that car, however. When he got out to look at the engine, Arvelo’s victim locked the doors and started honking the horn. Arvelo fled after two of the victim’s coworkers noticed the commotion and called the police, according to the court.
Arvelo confessed after being apprehended and taken into custody by Maitland police. The 21-year-old was interrogated for three years. Arvelo argued on appeal that he was coerced into making the confession and that officers made false promises of leniency during the interrogation. He also said that the officers took advantage of the fact that Arvelo was drunk and sleep-deprived. He told the cops at the beginning of the interview that he’d drunk a bottle of whiskey earlier that morning and had not slept since.
Affirming Arvelo’s conviction on appeal, the 11th Circuit said the officers had the right to interrogate Arvelo in his drunken state. “The mere fact that Arvelo was intoxicated during the interrogation does not render his statements involuntary,” the court said. “Instead, a defendant’s inebriated condition does not affect the voluntariness of his confession unless it undermines his ability to comprehend in a general way what he is doing and to communicate with coherence and context.” In this case, the court said Arvelo’s answers were generally coherent and responded to the officers’ questions. That showed that he comprehended the questions and was generally able to communicate, according to the court.
Although the officers also offered to assist Arvelo with mental issues, the court said they did not induce him into making the confession. “Florida courts have held that offers of psychiatric assistance do not render a confession involuntary” as long as the aid is not offered in return for the confession, the court said. Here, the officer told Arvelo at the outset that he could not make any promises and never linked his offer to help with his requests for information about the crime. As a result, the court confirmed Arvelo’s conviction.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. Clearwater sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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