U.S. Supreme Court

Ginsburg Opinion OKs Warning of Right to Lawyer Before Questioning

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The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Tampa’s version of the Miranda warning over objections that it did not tell a suspect of his right to a lawyer during, rather than before, interrogation.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion reinstating the firearms conviction of Kevin Dwayne Powell, report the Associated Press and the St. Petersburg Times.

The warning read, in part: “You have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of our questions. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for you without cost and before any questioning. You have the right to use any of these rights at any time you want during this interview.”

The Florida Supreme Court ruled in September 2008 that the warning improperly suggested Powell could only consult with a lawyer before—and not during—questioning. During the interrogation Powell admitted that he owned a gun, violating a law barring felons from owning weapons.

Ginsburg disagreed with the Florida court. “Nothing in the words used indicated that counsel’s presence would be restricted after the questioning commenced. Instead, the warning communicated that the right to counsel carried forward to and through the interrogation.”

Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen G. Breyer dissented.

The opinion (PDF) is Florida v. Powell.

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