This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




In the Matter of the Welfare of:

R.L.N., Child.

Filed July 21, 1998


Holtan, Judge*

Polk County District Court

File No. J9-97-50057

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Lawrence Hammerling, Deputy State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and

Wayne H. Swanson, Polk County Attorney, Scott A. Buhler, Assistant County Attorney, 223 East Seventh Street, Suite 101, Crookston, MN 56716 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Forsberg,** Judge, and Holtan, Judge.



Appellant juvenile R.L.N. challenges his delinquency adjudication, contending that the district court erred in admitting a statement he made to police and that the evidence was insufficient to find that he committed second-degree burglary. Because he was not in custody, we affirm the admission of his confession and find the evidence sufficient to sustain his delinquency adjudication.


On January 17, 1997, a break-in was discovered at Fosston High School. Two windows were broken and several interior doors were damaged. The Fosston police chief, James Berg, discovered two distinct types of shoe prints in the snow near the broken windows, one of which was made by a size ten and a half to eleven Zoom Air basketball shoe, which leaves a distinctive impression.

Berg walked into the locker room of the school and saw a student, R.L.N., putting on a pair of Nike Zoom Air basketball shoes, in a size corresponding to the first set of prints. R.L.N. was called to the school office and the door was closed behind him. R.L.N., who was 15 years, 8 months old at the time, was not told that he was free to leave nor informed of his Miranda rights. He was also not told that he was under arrest, nor was he handcuffed or physically restrained in any way. R.L.N. denied any involvement in the break-in. Berg took R.L.N.'s shoe outside to compare it with one of the shoeprints in the snow and determined that it was a perfect match with one set of prints.

Berg informed R.L.N. of the shoeprint match, and again asked him if he were involved in the school break-in. R.L.N. admitted that he and another juvenile, J.J.C., had broken into the school at approximately 1:00 a.m. on January 16, 1997. R.L.N. admitted kicking open one window of the school and opening another window so that J.J.C. could crawl through it to enter the school. R.L.N. also stated that he and J.J.C. had damaged several interior doors of the school with a knife and a screwdriver in an attempt to break into individual rooms within the school. He stated that they did not steal anything from the school. R.L.N. was not arrested at this point, but was directed to return to class. He was questioned for a total of 10 to 15 minutes.

Delinquency petitions were filed against R.L.N. and J.J.C. alleging that they had committed second-degree burglary. After their suppression motions were denied, each was adjudicated delinquent after their cases were submitted to the court on stipulated facts. R.L.N. now appeals.



Persons subject to custodial interrogation must be informed of their rights to remain silent and to be represented by an attorney. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 1612 (1966). Because both parties agree that R.L.N. was subject to interrogation, the only question remaining in the Miranda analysis is whether he was in custody. The district court held that R.L.N. was not in custody when he confessed to the police. A custody determination is a question of law reviewed de novo by appellate courts. State v. Miller, 573 N.W.2d 661, 670 (Minn. 1998).

When a defendant is not subject to a formal arrest, a custody determination turns on whether the defendant's liberty was restrained to the degree associated with a formal arrest. Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444, 86 S. Ct. at 1612; State v. Hince, 540 N.W.2d 820, 823 (Minn. 1995). The test is an objective one: a court must determine whether, considering the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person in the defendant's place would have felt himself restrained to a degree comparable to that associated with a formal arrest. Berkemer v. McCarthy, 468 U.S. 420, 442, 104 S. Ct. 3138, 3151 (1984); Hince, 540 N.W.2d at 823.

Although R.L.N. was less than 16 years old when questioned and had no prior contacts with police, he was questioned at school, not at a place of detention, by only one officer for a mere 10 to 15 minutes. He was not subject to any physical coercion or threats or physical restraint, such as handcuffs. In addition, because of the short length of questioning, he was not subject to any lengthy deprivation of food or bathroom breaks. Finally, R.L.N. was not immediately arrested after he confessed.

Any coercive element to R.L.N.'s interrogation was caused by the principal's order to report to his office and the principal's constant presence, not by any police action. See Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 167, 107 S. Ct. 515, 521-22 (1986) (defining coercion as that which is caused by police conduct). Here the principal was acting in his school capacity and not as a police agent when he summoned R.L.N. to his office. Moreover, coercive aspects of an interrogation do not automatically render it custodial. Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 495, 97 S. Ct. 711, 714 (1977) (per curiam). Evaluating the totality of the circumstances, R.L.N. was not in police custody when questioned by Berg. Because no custodial interrogation took place, the police were not required to administer Miranda warnings before questioning him. The district court properly refused to suppress R.L.N.'s confession.[1]

R.L.N. further contends that his confession was improperly admitted because it was not voluntary, even if it was not obtained in violation of his Miranda rights. The voluntariness of a confession, on stipulated facts, is a legal question reviewed de novo. In re Welfare of G.M., 560 N.W.2d 687, 696 (Minn. 1997). The state must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that a defendant's confession was voluntary. State v. Andrews, 388 N.W.2d 723, 730 (Minn. 1986). For a confession to be involuntary, there must be some element of coercive police conduct. Connelly, 479 U.S. at 167, 107 S. Ct. at 521-522; Hince, 540 N.W.2d at 824. A confession is regarded as voluntary if the totality of the circumstances shows that it was the product of a freely made decision. G.M., 560 N.W.2d at 696. The factors to be considered in assessing the totality of the circumstances include the age, maturity, intelligence, education, and experience of the accused; his ability to comprehend the situation; whether he received the Miranda warnings; the length and legality of any detention; the nature of the interrogation; and whether the accused was denied access to friends, family, or physical needs such as food, water, and bathroom breaks. Hince, 540 N.W.2d at 824.

Applying these factors to the facts before us leads to the inescapable conclusion that R.L.N.'s confession was not involuntary or coerced. He was almost 16 when questioned, and we have already held that he was not in police custody when he confessed. He does not allege that any physical force was used to produce his confession; similarly, there is no allegation that threats or promises prompted his statement. He was not provided with any Miranda warnings, but he was subject to a very short interrogation lasting 10 to 15 minutes. Therefore, he was not deprived of food, water, bathroom breaks, or contact with his family or friends for any significant period of time. Lastly, the interrogation took place in a school, not a police station, and R.L.N. was questioned at a normal time of day. Cf. In re Welfare of M.E.P., 523 N.W.2d 913, 923 (Minn. App. 1994) (juvenile suspect awakened at 4:00 a.m. at police station for renewed questioning), review denied (Minn. Mar. 22, 1995). R.L.N.'s confession was clearly voluntary.


R.L.N. contends that even if his confession was properly admitted, the evidence was not sufficient for an adjudication of second-degree burglary. In assessing the sufficiency of evidence for a juvenile adjudication, this court must review the record and the legitimate inferences from the record in the light most favorable to the adjudication to determine whether the fact-finder could have reasonably concluded the juvenile committed the charged offense. In re Welfare of S.A.M., 570 N.W.2d 162, 167 (Minn. App. 1997).

Under Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 2(d) (1996), a second-degree burglary is committed where a person (1) enters a building without consent, (2) has the intent to commit a crime or commits a crime therein, and (3) possesses burglar tools (any tool used to obtain access to money or property) when entering or while inside the building.

R.L.N. admits illegally entering the building and using a screwdriver to attempt to break in to interior rooms, satisfying the first and third elements of the crime. R.L.N.'s destructive use of the screwdriver to damage school property also satisfies the second element because it constitutes the crime of vandalism or malicious destruction of property.

It was also proper for the district court to base its finding that the boys committed second-degree burglary on an inference that R.L.N. intended to commit a crime inside the school. Intent may be inferred from the circumstances. State v. Ring, 554 N.W.2d 758, 760 (Min. App. 1996). R.L.N. and J.J.C. forcibly entered the school at 1:00 a.m. by kicking out a window. See State v. Nelson, 363 N.W.2d 81, 83 (Minn. App. 1985) (entry into building in middle of night raises inference of intent to steal); State v. Adamson, 365 N.W.2d 282, 283 (Minn. App. 1985) (forcible entry supports inference of intent to steal). Finally, the school presumably contained items of value or money. See Nelson, 363 N.W.2d at 83 (illegal entry into building containing valuables raises inference of intent to steal). Thus it was reasonable for the district court to conclude that R.L.N. entered the school with the intent to commit a crime therein or that the boys committed a crime therein (destruction of property). Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the adjudication, the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable fact-finder to conclude that R.L.N. committed second-degree burglary.


*Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.

** Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] R.L.N. contends that his confession should have been suppressed because it was obtained in violation of the rule of State v. Scales, 518 N.W.2d 587, 592 (Minn. 1994) (all custodial interrogations must be recorded). Scales does not apply here because R.L.N. was not subject to a custodial interrogation and because the state does not argue that R.L.N. waived his Miranda rights.