Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981).
This case answers the following question:
What happens if police continue an interrogation after request for counsel by the accused?
The issue in this case is whether the fifth, sixth, and fourteenth amendments require suppression of a post-arrest confession, which was made after Edwards had requested his right to counsel. When an accused has invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that he responded to further police-initiated custodial interrogation even if he has been advised of his rights.
On January 19th, Edwards was charged with robbery, burglary, and first-degree murder. Edwards was arrested at his home and informed of his Miranda rights. Edwards submitted to questioning where he denied involvement, gave a taped statement with an alibi, and attempted to make a deal. After being given the number of a county attorney who could negotiate a deal, Edwards responded by saying, “I want an attorney before making a deal.” The questioning immediately ceased, and Edwards was taken to the county jail. The next day, January 20th, two detectives came to the jail to see Edwards. Edwards stated that he did not want to talk to anyone, but the guard told him that he had to talk and took him to meet with the detectives. Edwards was again given his Miranda rights and given a chance to listen to a tape of the alleged accomplice. Edwards then gave a statement implicating himself in the crime. Edwards moved to suppress this statement at trial, but the motion was eventually denied. Edwards was then convicted.
It is reasonably clear under our cases that waivers of counsel must not only be voluntary but must also constitute a knowing and intelligent relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege, a matter which depends in each case upon the particular facts and circumstances surrounding that case, including the background, experience, and conduct of the accused. None of the courts below looked at whether Edwards understood his right to counsel and intelligently and knowingly relinquished that right. Since the second meeting on January 20th was initiated by the officers, it did not constitute a waiver. If the meeting had been initiated by Edwards, nothing in the fifth or fourteenth amendments would have prevented the police from listening to his statements and using them as evidence at trial.
When an accused has invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that he responded to further police-initiated custodial interrogation even if he has been advised of his rights. The right to counsel and the effect of that request on the interrogation was laid out in Miranda. In Miranda, it was decided that once counsel has been requested, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present. Due to this, the court found that it would be unlawful for authorities to re-interrogate a suspect if the suspect has clearly requested the right to counsel. In this case, Edwards statement was made without ever having received access to counsel, and therefore was not a valid waiver.
The decision of the lower courts is reversed because the use of the statements made by Edwards after his request for counsel violated his rights under the fifth and fourteenth amendments. Having requesting counsel on January 19th, Edwards did not waive that right by speaking without an attorney on January 20th. Edwards did not waive his right to counsel, and the statements made by Edwards on January 20th are inadmissible as evidence.