In Florida, a police officer may have a recording device in his/her vehicle. This obviously becomes important if the defendant makes statements after an arrest while sitting in the police car, whether to the officer, to another person detained in the vehicle or in any other context. Can the state use the secretly recorded conversations of a defendant in a police car at the trial?
In a recent robbery case south of Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant and his friend were stopped by a police officer who suspected them of committing a robbery nearby. The police officer put both of them in the back of his police car. In the back of the police car, the defendant made incriminating statements about the robbery in a conversation with his friend. These statements were recorded and used by the State against the defendant at the robbery trial.
The criminal defense lawyer tried to prevent the statements from being admitted at trial. He argued that the statements were hearsay and testimonial as they were obviously recorded to be used against a defendant at trial.
The court found that the secretly recorded statements were allowed in the trial. The defendant’s own statements were his own admissions which are admissible at trial. As for the other individual in the police car with the defendant, the defendant’s criminal defense attorney did not have a chance to cross-examine him, but his recorded statements were admissible because they were used to put the defendant’s admissions into context. The statements were not testimonial because they were not made in response to any questioning by the police, but rather were spontaneous statements.