What Happens When a Criminal Suspect Confesses After Asking For an Attorney?

As a general rule, a criminal suspect who expresses his desire to deal with the police only through a lawyer may not be interrogated unless — and until — his attorney is actually present.  The one exception to this rule occurs when the suspect himself initiates further communication.In this situation, police may obtain a Miranda waiver and then resume the interrogation.  A suspect initiates further communication. . . when he speaks words or engages in conduct that can be fairly said to represent a desire on his part to open up a more generalized discussion relating directly or indirectly to the investigation.ates. In one recent Court case, a border patrol agent read the accused the Miranda warnings, and the suspect requested an attorney. The following day, a Los Angeles detective arrived to interrogate him. As he was introducing himself, the suspect interrupted and said “What can I do for you,or “What do you want from me.” After some additional small talk, the accused waived his Miranda rights and gave a series of increasingly incriminating statements. The California Supreme Court concluded that while the criminal suspect may have thought he was just being polite, objectively speaking, his remarks could fairly be said to represent a desire on his part to open up a more generalized discussion relating directly or indirectly to the investigation. . . .” In other words, since the suspect initiated the interrogation and then waived his Miranda rights his confession was not constitutionally barred. Interestingly, in a departure from the past, the court at least acknowledged that the detectives description of the encounter with the arrestee which he never memorialized in a police report — could have been recently fabricated to defeat [the] motion. It also conceded that the detective would have interrogated the suspect even if he had not initiated the questioning.

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