Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Supreme Court Rules On How Long Request For Lawyer Lasts

Today, the Supreme Court released it's opinion on a case we previewed in a post on October 4, 2009.  The case involves Michael Shatzer who was imprisoned in Maryland for the criminal sexual abuse of his son in 2003.  He requested an attorney and the case went dormant.  About 2 1/2 years later, when Shatzer's son was old enough to recount the details, he was arrested again, signed a Miranda waiver and confessed to the crime.  Shatzer had asked the court to suppress the statements claiming that his initial request for an attorney was valid and any subsequent questioning should be suppressed.  In the majority opinion, written by Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court ruled that enough time had passed between the release and the questioning that there was no reason to believe that his change of heart was coerced.  The prior court holdings which Shatzer was relying on were designed to keep the police from being able to badger a suspect into eventually waiving his right to an attorney.  According to this decision, so long as the defendant is released for at least 14 days and has had an opportunity to return to their normal life, the police can question the defendant again and can get them to waive their right to an attorney and obtain a confession from them.

The case is Maryland v. Shatzer, 08-680.

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