Thursday, February 25, 2010


aka We know you asked for an attorney 14 days ago but we decided to check on you and see if you still really wanted an attorney? In the new US Supreme Court case of Maryland v. Shatzer, the majority of the Court ruled that police may reinitiate questioning after a suspect has requested counsel as long as a sufficient period of time passes. What is a sufficient time? 14 days the Court decides...more below from the New York Times (full article here).
The police can take a second run at questioning a suspect who has invoked his Miranda rights, but they must wait until 14 days after the suspect has been released from custody, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The case arose from a second attempt to question Michael B. Shatzer, a Maryland man suspected of sexually abusing his young son. Mr. Shatzer, who was in prison for another sex crime, was first visited by a police detective in 2003. Mr. Shatzer invoked his rights under the 1966 decision in Miranda v. Arizona and refused to answer questions without a lawyer.

Two and a half years later, still in prison, Mr. Shatzer was approached by a different detective. This time, Mr. Shatzer waived his Miranda rights and made incriminating statements about abusing his son.

Mr. Shatzer’s lawyer moved to suppress those statements, relying on a 1981 Supreme Court decision, Edwards v. Arizona, which said that once a suspect had asked for a lawyer under Miranda, the authorities may not resume questioning.

The issue in Mr. Shatzer’s case, as Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for seven justices, was whether that prohibition on further questioning was “eternal.”

Justice Scalia said the main reason to forbid repeated attempts at questioning was to prevent badgering of a suspect held in custody while a crime was under investigation. He added that voluntary confessions were “an unmitigated good” and that suspects were always free to invoke their Miranda rights again when approached for further questioning.

Taken to an extreme, Justice Scalia added, the prohibition on further attempts at questioning would confer a sort of immunity on suspects who had once invoked their rights — even if the subsequent questioning concerned another crime in another jurisdiction.

The court could have answered only the question directly presented in Mr. Shatzer’s case — whether a gap of more than two years was sufficient to allow further efforts at questioning. In a concurrence endorsing the result but declining to adopt the majority’s reasoning, Justice John Paul Stevens said that was the route he would have taken.

But in a move that Justice Scalia conceded was “certainly unusual,” the justices in the majority picked a specific time period — 14 days after release from custody — after which the police could restart their efforts.

No comments: