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Maryland v. Shatzer, USSC No. 08-680

ussc decision

“Edwards” Rule – 14-Day Expiry
A “break in custody” ends the presumptive involuntariness of a statement following invocation of right to counsel; reinterrogation permitted after 14-day lapse.

… The protections offered by Miranda, which we have deemed sufficient to ensure that the police respect the suspect’s desire to have an attorney present the first time police interrogate him, adequately ensure that result when a suspect who initially requested counsel is reinterrogated after a break in custody that is of sufficient duration to dissipate its coercive effects.

Like McLaughlin , this is a case in which the requisite police action (there, presentation to a magistrate; here, abstention from further interrogation) has not been prescribed by statute but has been established by opinion of this Court. We think it appropriate to specify a period of time to avoid the consequence that continuation of the Edwards presumption “will not reach the correct result most of the time.” Coleman, supra, at 737. It seems to us that period is 14 days. That 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.

Whatever else may be said, the rule is straightforward and therefore seemingly easy to administer. But the case presents a wrinkle, and things may not be as they seem. When initially interrogated, Shatzer was in prison. He remained in prison till reinterrogated, 2+ years later. Given that his incarceration was constant, did he enjoy a “break in custody”? He was, of course, not released from “custody,” but the Court makes the benchmark  something a bit different: “After the 2003 interview, Shatzer was released back into the general prison population where he was serving an unrelated sentence. The issue is whether that constitutes a break in Miranda custody.” So the determinant isn’t “custody” per se, but something termed “Miranda custody.” And the Court goes on to find that Shatzer was released from that custody:

Interrogated suspects who have previously been convicted of crime live in prison. When they are released back into the general prison population, they return to their accustomed surroundings and daily routine—they regain the degree of control they had over their lives prior to the interrogation. Sentenced prisoners, in contrast to the Miranda paradigm, are not isolated with their accusers. They live among other inmates, guards, and workers, and often can receive visitors and communicate with people on the outside by mail or telephone.

Their detention, moreover, is relatively disconnected from their prior unwillingness to cooperate in an investigation. The former interrogator has no power to increase the duration of incarceration, which was determined at sentencing. 8And even where the possibility of parole exists, the former interrogator has no apparent power to decrease the time served. This is in stark contrast to the circumstances faced by the defendants in Edwards, Roberson, and Minnick, whose continued detention as suspects rested with those controlling their interrogation, and who confronted the uncertainties of what final charges they would face, whether they would be convicted, and what sentence they would receive.

In brief, the 14-day rule is clear-cut enough, but what about the “break in custody” component? Is it ever applicable to pre-conviction jail settings? That remains to be seen. One other, arguably more obscure implication arises. It has been settled that “a person who is incarcerated is per se in custody for purposes of Miranda,”  State v. Tonnie D. Armstrong, 223 Wis.2d 331, 588 N.W.2d 606 (1999), reconsideration denied, 225 Wis.2d 121, 591 N.W.2d 604 (1999). (And: “we can think of no situation in which a defendant is more clearly in custody, as envisioned by the Miranda Court, than when the defendant is confined in a prison or jail,” at 356.) But Shatzer says that the Court has “never decided whether incarceration constitutes custody for Miranda purposes, and have indeed explicitly declined to address the issue.” Nonetheless, the context suggests that the Court meant simply that Shatzer indeed was in “Miranda custody” during the interrogation, but not when he was returned to the general prison population.

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