If a suspect waives his Miranda
rights during an interrogation, can law enforcement use his incriminating statements against him up to the point that he requests an attorney?
Yes, unless the suspect demonstrates that he never understood his rights in the first place.
After executing a search warrant for Gregory Leet’s house and vehicle, police took Leet to the police station for questioning on two recent homicides. The investigating detective read Leet his Miranda
rights before questioning him, and Leet waived each of those rights orally. The detective then began taping the interrogation.
At one point during questioning, Leet requested that his rights again be read to him. The detective again went over each right, but when he explained that Leet had a right to an attorney, Leet asked, “You can have a lawyer with you during the questioning?” And after again reading the waiver portion of the Miranda
form, he stated, “I do want a lawyer . . . if I can have one during questioning.” Leet acknowledged that, even though he signed the Miranda
waiver form before the interrogation began, he didn’t know he was allowed to have an attorney present while being questioned. He then requested an attorney, if one was available.
The detective told Leet that he could provide an attorney “at a later date.” Leet asked if the detective could use all the statements Leet made before requesting an attorney against him in court. The detective explained that the statements would be used and that Leet’s statements were recorded, so Leet then told the detective, “Guess I’ll talk.” Leet later filed a motion to suppress all his statements.
Why this case is important:
The court held that Leet’s statements should be suppressed. A suspect can waive his Miranda
rights, but his waiver must be made with full awareness to both the nature of the right he is giving up and the consequences of giving up that right. And courts look to the totality of the circumstances to see if the suspect’s waiver was voluntary, including the suspect’s age, mentality, and criminal history as well as the circumstances surrounding the interrogation. Here, Leet’s responses to the detective show that he didn’t understand he had a right to counsel during his interrogation. Then Leet twice requested counsel, which demonstrates that he probably didn’t understand that right when he first waived it. Once he understood, he unequivocally requested counsel. And Leet didn’t successfully waive his rights when he later told the detective, “Guess I’ll talk.” The detective used a tactic of telling Leet that he wouldn’t get an attorney until “a later date” as an attempt to continue the interrogation. Therefore, all of Leet’s statements were suppressed.
Keep in mind:
If during an interrogation a suspect later shows that he may not have understood his Miranda
rights, you probably should review those rights with him again to make sure you have obtained a valid waiver from him. Otherwise, any incriminating statements likely will be suppressed.
Visit the Second District Court of Appeals
website to view the entire opinion.