Posted Feb 24, 2010 03:47 pm CST
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a “break in custody” permits police to question a suspect who waived his Miranda rights more than two years after initially requesting a lawyer.
A break in custody of more than two weeks is sufficient for new questioning without a lawyer, according to the opinion (PDF) by Justice Antonin Scalia. All of the justices agreed with the ruling for the state, although two—Justices John Paul Stevens and Clarence Thomas—did not agree with the 14-day rule.
“While it is certainly unusual for this court to set forth precise time limits governing police action, it is not unheard of,” Scalia wrote. A 14-day period “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.”
The decision creates an exception to the 1981 ruling Edwards v. Arizona, SCOTUSblog reports.
Edwards had required a suspect who had requested a lawyer to affirmatively request further communications with police before questioning could resume without counsel present.
The child sexual abuse suspect whose case was before the Supreme Court, Michael Blaine Shatzer, had been questioned without a lawyer two-and-a-half years after his initial request for counsel. During the new round of questioning, Shatzer waived his Miranda rights before making an incriminating statement about abuse of his 3-year-old son. “I didn’t force him,” Shatzer said, according to police.