STATE OF NEW JERSEY VS. REGINALD ANTHONY
Rule 3:17(a) provides that, "[u]nless one of the exceptions set forth in paragraph (b) are present, all custodial interrogations conducted in a place of detention must be electronically recorded when the person being interrogated is charged with" certain listed crimes, including murder. However, subsection (b)(vi) excepts from the recordation requirement "a statement . . . given at a time when the accused is not a suspect for the crime to which that statement relates while the accused is being interrogated for a different crime that does not require recordation[.]"
In this case, defendant was arrested on an open motor vehicle warrant and interrogated regarding a homicide. The preliminary interrogation was not recorded, but, at some point, after concluding based on defendant's statements that he was a suspect in the homicide, investigators recorded his statement on video. The trial judge denied defendant's motion to suppress the statement and concluded there was no obligation to record the initial portion of the interrogation.
We construe the somewhat ambiguous provisions of the Rule and conclude that an interrogation must be recorded if, taking into account the totality of the circumstances then known to the interrogator, a reasonable police officer would have a reasonable basis to believe defendant was a "suspect" in the crime about which he was being questioned. In this case, we conclude that the trial judge properly determined that the investigators reasonably concluded that defendant was not a suspect when the interrogation began.