Miranda Rights Cases in the Supreme Court

Pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436, a suspect who is subjected to custodial interrogation must be informed of his rights to remain silent and the presence of an attorney. If a suspect invokes his right to counsel, all further interrogation must cease until an attorney is present. (Id. at pp. 473-474.) Invoking the right to counsel under Miranda must be unambiguous and unequivocal. (Davis v. United States (1994) 512 U.S. 452.) In Edwards v. Arizona (1981) 451 U.S. 477, the high court held that once counsel is requested the suspect "is not subject to further interrogation by the authorities until counsel has been made available to him, unless the accused himself initiates further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the police." (Id. at pp. 484-485.) Under Edwards, "if further conversations are initiated by the police when there has not been a break in custody, the defendant's statements are presumed involuntary and inadmissible as substantive evidence at trial. This is true even when the defendant again waives his Miranda rights and his statements are voluntary under traditional standards." (People v. Thomas (2012) 54 Cal.4th 908, 926 144 Cal. Rptr. 3d 366, 281 P.3d 361.) The Edwards rule "is not offense specific." (McNeil v. Wisconsin (1991) 501 U.S. 171.) "Once a suspect invokes the Miranda right to counsel for interrogation regarding one offense, he may not be reapproached regarding any offense unless counsel is present." (Ibid.) The purpose of the rule in Edwards is to preserve "'the integrity of an accused's choice to communicate with police only through counsel,' , by 'preventing police from badgering a defendant into waiving his previously asserted Miranda rights,' ." (Shatzer, supra, 559 U.S. at p. 106.) It "is not a constitutional mandate, but judicially prescribed prophylaxis." (Id. at p. 105.) Application of the Edwards rule "is 'justified only by reference to its prophylactic purpose'" and its presumption is not to be uncritically extended. (Id. at p. 106.) As the high court observed in Shatzer, "the Edwards presumption of involuntariness is justified only in circumstances where the coercive pressures have increased so much that suspects' waivers of Miranda rights are likely to be involuntary most of the time." (Id. at pp. 115-116.) In People v. Storm (2002) 28 Cal.4th 1007, the California Supreme Court analyzed whether a break in custody vitiated the Edwards no-recontact rule. In Storm, the defendant volunteered to undergo a polygraph test at the police station as part of an investigation into his wife's murder. The defendant was given Miranda warnings, which were waived, but during the course of the test he invoked his right to counsel. (Storm, supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 1012.) Rather than cease questioning, the polygraph operator encouraged the defendant to keep talking, and he admitted he killed his wife but claimed it was assisted suicide. (Ibid.) The defendant was allowed to leave the station but detectives came to his home two days later. After assuring him no arrest would occur, the detectives interviewed the defendant again without new Miranda warnings. The defendant gave a more detailed version of his wife's death. The Storm court determined that the recognized "break-in-custody exception to the Edwards no-recontact rule" governed. (Ibid.) Following the break in custody, the defendant "had ample time, opportunity, and incentive to consult counsel outside the coercive atmosphere of custody." (Id. at p. 1013.) Storm upheld the admission of the later home interview into evidence, concluding the interview occurred in a noncustodial setting so that new Miranda warnings were not required. (Ibid.) Storm explained that, under the rule set forth in Edwards, supra, 451 U.S. 477, a suspect's statements to police are presumed involuntary and inadmissible once the right to counsel is invoked and the suspect's statements are then obtained in an encounter initiated by police without counsel present. (Storm, supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 1023.) However, Storm held that Edwards is not violated when the police recontact a suspect after a break in custody so long as the suspect has a reasonable time and opportunity to consult counsel if desired. (Id. at pp. 1024-1025.) Storm determined that the two-day custodial break, occurring midweek, was "sufficient to dissipate custodial pressures and permit defendant to consult counsel." (Id. at p. 1025.) In Maryland v. Shatzer (2010) 559 U.S. 98, the United States Supreme Court considered whether a break in custody ends the presumption of involuntariness set forth in Edwards. In Shatzer, the defendant was incarcerated in prison pursuant to a prior conviction when he was questioned by a police detective about allegations he had sexually abused his son. The defendant invoked his right to have counsel present and the detective terminated the interview. The defendant was released back into the general prison population. More than two years later another officer again initiated questioning about the sexual abuse. The defendant waived renewed Miranda warnings and made inculpatory statements. The trial court refused to suppress those statements, reasoning that Edwards did not apply because the defendant had experienced a break in Miranda custody prior to the second interrogation. The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed. The Shatzer court noted that lower courts, including the California Supreme Court in Storm, supra, 28 Cal.4th at pages 1023-1024, had uniformly held that a break in custody ends the Edwards presumption of involuntariness. (Shatzer, supra, 559 U.S. at p. 105.) Shatzer endorsed this uniform approach, stating "the only logical endpoint of Edwards disability is termination of Miranda custody and any of its lingering effects." (Id. at p. 108.) The Supreme Court noted law enforcement needed to know with certainty when a renewed interrogation is lawful after a suspect invokes his right to counsel. Shatzer held that a period of 14 days must pass, which "provides plenty of time for the suspect to get reacclimated to his normal life, to consult with friends and counsel, and to shake off any residual coercive effects of his prior custody." (Id. at p. 110.) Shatzer commented that the 14-day limitation avoided "gamesmanship" by law enforcement whereby a suspect could invoke his right to counsel, be released from custody briefly to end the Edwards presumption, and then be promptly brought back into custody for reinterrogation. (Id. at pp. 110-111.) Under its facts, Shatzer determined the defendant's return to the general prison population was a break in custody of sufficient duration to end the Edwards presumption so that suppression of his statements was not warranted. (Id. at p. 117.)