Is Asking ''if You Are Allowed'' to Contact a Lawyer the Same As ''Asking for a Lawyer'' ?

In People v. Dehmler, 188 AD2d 1056, 591 N.Y.S.2d 918 (4th Dept. 1992), the court found that defendant's inquiry, "Can I call a lawyer?" did not constitute an unequivocal intention to retain counsel. In Dehmler, the defendant subsequently told police that "he was not asking for an attorney but only asking whether he was allowed to contact one" (id. at 1056). Thus, Dehmler is clearly distinguishable from the case at bar since the defendant in Dehmler clarified his own statement, and expressly told police he was not invoking his right to counsel. In People v. Cotton, 277 AD2d 461, 715 N.Y.S.2d 763 (2d Dept. 2000), defendant stated, "I have counsel," during the administration of Miranda rights. The court held that defendant's statement did not constitute an invocation of the right to counsel. However, contrary to defendant's case, the police in Cotton clarified defendant's comment by rereading that Miranda warning to defendant, to which he replied that he understood. It is further distinguishable in that the defendant in Cotton did not expressly request an attorney but merely stated that he had an attorney.