A man convicted of possessing methamphetamine with an intent to distribute it has lost his appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
Francisco Ochoa-Zaragoza argued that his lack of English language skills proved he could not have consented to the search of his truck by police when he was pulled over on a stretch of I-70 near Green River in September 1997. During the search drugs were discovered in the truck. He also argued that he had not waived his Miranda rights, based on his inability to fully understand English.
Defense attorneys in the case said the district court judge should not have allowed testimony by a U.S. deputy marshal, who struck up a conversation with Ochoa-Zaragoza once while he was being transported from jail to the courtroom. The pair spoke in English, and prosecutors said that was evidence of the man's language skills.
Ochoa-Zaragoza's attorneys argued that law enforcement officers are not allowed to interrogate a defendant outside an attorney's presence.
But the appellate court disagreed.
"Incriminating statements made during this type of casual conversation with law enforcement officials are not the product of interrogation," the justices ruled.