Friday, January 4, 2019

He "wasn't going to say anything at all"

A suspect who interrupted his Miranda warnings about half-way through to declare that he "wasn't going to say anything at all" unambiguously invoked his right to silence, and his responses to the interrogating officers' continued questioning should have been suppressed. So said the Fourth Circuit last month in United States v. Abdallah, No. 17-4230 (4th Cir. Dec. 18, 2018).

Lessons from Abdallah:

1. An invocation is not ineffective because it is made before the suspect has heard the entire Miranda warning: "there is no requirement that an unambiguous invocation of Miranda rights also be 'knowing and intelligent.'"

2. An invocation need not take any particular tone: "There is no requirement that Miranda invocations be measured, polite, or free of anger." 

3. What happens post-invocation is irrelevant to whether the invocation was ambiguous: "courts cannot cast ambiguity on an otherwise clear invocation by looking to circumstances which occurred after the request."

4. Don't conflate the invocation analysis with a waiver analysis: "Officers cannot fail to scrupulously honor a suspect's request in the hope that the suspect will subsequently waive that failure."

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