The Appellate Group

State v. Uptain

State v. Uptain, 2023 UT App 149 (Mortenson, J.)

Criminal Procedure

While the defendant was in jail on drug charges, officers questioned him, without Miranda warnings, about a home invasion in which they suspected he was involved. He spontaneously confessed, was then given Miranda warnings, and confirmed his confession. He was later convicted on charges related to the home invasion. The defendant appealed claiming his counsel was ineffective for failing to move to suppress his confessions. The Utah Court of Appeals vacated the conviction, holding:

  • Counsel was ineffective for failing to file the motion, and the defendant was prejudiced by the failure. A motion to suppress the defendant’s confession would have been meritorious.
  • Practice tip: The Court of Appeals declined to require positive evidence of trial counsel’s decision-making process in evaluating an ineffective assistance of counsel claim under Strickland’s objective standard.
  • Practice tip: Depending on the circumstances, an incarcerated person is subject to “custodial interrogation” for Miranda purposes and entitled to receive Miranda warnings prior to questioning.
  • Practice tip: If a conviction heavily depends on only one piece of evidence that should have been excluded, the inclusion of that evidence is “very likely prejudicial.” And when a conviction rests entirely on a piece of evidence that should have been excluded, “prejudice is certain.”

Read the full court opinion