In what appears to be a continuing effort by the U.S. Supreme Court to limit the rights of criminal defendants, the Court ruled on February 24 that the police may continue questioning of a suspect after he has invoked his Miranda rights, as long as they wait 14 days to continue their interrogation. The case, Maryland v. Shatzer, involved a Maryland man who was suspected of sexual abuse and was in prison for another crime. While Shatzer was in prison, he was questioned by a police detective and invoked his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, refusing to answer questions without an attorney present. However, two and a half years later, with Mr. Shatzer still in prison, another detective approached him and began questioning him after he had waived his Miranda rights related to the same incident involving his son.
Mr. Shatzer’s lawyers argued before the Supreme Court that any statements made by Shatzer during the second questioning should be suppressed as he had previously asked for a lawyer during the original interrogation, and that Miranda prohibited re-questioning under those circumstances without a lawyer present. In a decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court found the main issue to be whether the prohibition in further questioning after Miranda rights is “eternal.” Scalia noted that the reason repeated attempts at questioning was forbidden was to prevent “badgering” of a suspect while a crime was under investigation. However, using a completely arbitrary 14 day standard, the highest Court ruled that two weeks “provided plenty of time for the suspect to get acclimated to normal life, to consult with friends and counsel, and to shake off any residual effects of his prior custody.” Interestingly, even the most conservative member of the Court, Clarence Thomas, questioned the arbitrary 14 days rule in his concurrence. In Thomas’s view, any break in custody would be sufficient to allow questioning to continue–no surprise there.
Despite the fact that no one would wish to protect child molesters in our society, and particularly if it was proven that someone abused his own son, this decision is part of a grander scheme by the conservative members of the Court– Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Roberts, to chip away at the rights of criminal defendants long protected by such landmark decisions as Miranda, and the 1981 decision in Edwards v. Arizona, in which the Court ruled that once a suspect asks for an attorney under Miranda, the authorities may not resume questioning.
If you or a loved one is charged with a crime, contact the Westchester County Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Law Office Of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at 914-224-3086 for a free consultation with an experienced, knowledgeable attorney to discuss your legal rights and options.