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Right to Counsel and Custody With Regard to Miranda

MARYLAND V. SHATZER 559 U.S. ____, 130 S.Ct. 1213 (2010) : United States Supreme Court Decided February 24, 2010


(1) Whether inculpatory statements made by a defendant at a second police interrogation, occurring 2 ½ years after the first police interrogation, are admissible when the defendant, at the first interrogation, had invoked his right to counsel and refused to speak to the police without an attorney present.

Held : Yes, the statements are admissible because there was a sufficient break between the first custodial interrogation and the second custodial interrogation, and a break in the custodial interrogation of 14 days will allow the police to re-interrogate a suspect without counsel being present.

(2) Whether incarceration on a separate and distinct crime constitutes custody for Miranda purposes.

Held : incarceration on a separate and distinct conviction does not constitute custody for Miranda purposes.

In 2003 a police detective tried to question the defendant who was incarcerated. The defendant invoked his Miranda rights to counsel and the detective terminated the interview and closed the investigation.

In 2006 another detective reopened the investigation and attempted to interrogate the defendant who was still incarcerated. The defendant waived his Miranda rights and made inculpatory statements.

The United States Supreme Court held that because the defendant experienced a break in Miranda custody lasting more than 14 days between the first and second attempts at interrogation the holding in Edwards v. Arizona , 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981) does not mandate suppression of his 2006 statements.

Edwards created a presumption that once a suspect invokes the Miranda right to the presence of counsel, any waiver of that right in response to a subsequent police attempt at custodial interrogation is involuntary. Edwards’ fundamental purpose is to preserve the integrity of an accused’s choice to communicate with police only through counsel by preventing police from badgering him into waving his previously asserted Miranda rights.

Where a suspect has been released from custody and returned to his normal life for some time for the later attempted interrogation, there is little reason to think that he changed his mind about talking to the police is due to coercion.

The Supreme Court’s analysis begins with the Fifth Amendment: the Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. The Supreme Court has previously held that an interrogation in an unfamiliar, police dominated atmosphere, involves psychological pressures which worked to undermine the individuals will to resist and compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely.

In its opinion the Supreme Court referred heavily to Edwards v. Arizona ,451 U.S.477 (1981).

In Edwards , the Court determined that traditional standard for waiver was not sufficient to protect a suspect’s right to have counsel present at a subsequent interrogation if he had previously requested counsel; additional safeguards were necessary.

“When an accused has invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that he responded to further police initiated custodial interrogation even if he has been advised of his rights. He is not subject to further interrogation by the authorities until council has been made available to him, unless the accused himself initiates further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the police .”

The rationale of Edwards is that once a suspect indicates that he is not capable of undergoing custodial questioning without advice of counsel, any subsequent waiver that has come at the authorities behest, and not at the suspect’s own instigation, is itself a product of the inherently compelling pressures and not the purely voluntary choice of the suspect.

The court imposed a 14 day rule whereby when there is a break in the custodial interrogation of at least 14 days, the police will then be allowed to interrogate the suspect again despite the fact that he previously invoked the right to counsel. The Court reasoned that it was appropriate to specify a period of time to avoid the consequence that continuation of the Edwards presumption will not reach the correct result most of the time. Further, the Court stated that the 14 day period was appropriate because it provided plenty of time for the suspect to get re-acclimated to his normal life, to consult with friends and counsel, and to shake off any residual course of effects of his prior custody.

The court also decided the issue of whether incarceration constitutes custody for Miranda purposes.

The Court held that lawful imprisonment imposed upon conviction does not create the coercive pressures identified in Miranda. The Court reasoned that interrogated suspects who have previously been convicted of a crime live in prison. When they are released back into the general population they return to their customary surroundings and daily routine, they regain the degree of control they had over their lives prior to the interrogation. Sentenced prisoners are not isolated with their accusers; they live among other inmates, guards, and workers, and often can receive visitors and communicate with people on the outside by mail or telephone.