Miranda and Breaks In Custody (Part 1)

by | Mar 7, 2019 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

On December 12, 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the Camden County case of State v. Laurie Wint. Justice Albin write the opinion for a unanimous court. The principal issue concerned the circumstances under which detectives are allowed to question a defendant who has invoked their right to remain silent.

Justice Albin held in relevant part: The Court considers whether Pennsylvania detectives violated Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981), by attempting to question defendant Laurie Wint in Camden and later questioning him in Pennsylvania after he earlier requested counsel. The Court also considers the exceptions to the rule requiring the suppression of any statement secured during a subsequent custodial interrogation after a defendant requests counsel:  whether (1) counsel was provided during the questioning, (2) defendant initiated the communication, or (3) a break in custody occurred.  See Edwards, 451 U.S. 477; Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98 (2010).

In Edwards, the United States Supreme Court held that when an accused invokes his right to have counsel present during a custodial interrogation, questioning must cease unless the accused initiates further communication or conversation.  451 U.S. at 484-85.  The Edwards doctrine, which bars continuing an interrogation after a request for counsel, applies even if a different law enforcement agency seeks to question the accused about an unrelated crime, Arizona v. Roberson, 486 U.S. 675, 686-88 (1988), but does not apply “when a suspect who initially requested counsel is reinterrogated after a break in custody that is of sufficient duration to dissipate its coercive effects.”  Shatzer, 559 U.S. at 109.

In this case, officers arrested defendant Laurie Wint on a New Jersey murder charge and brought him to the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office for questioning. Wint invoked his right to counsel after receiving Miranda warnings, and the interrogation ceased. Immediately afterwards, two detectives from Pennsylvania investigating an unrelated murder in Bucks County entered the interrogation room to question Wint. Wint again requested the presence of counsel, ending the interrogation. When Wint left the room, the detectives wished him good luck and stated, “When we get you back to Bucks County, we can talk about this again.” Wint responded, “Yeah, I’ll talk to you when we get back to Bucks County.” Wint remained in continuous pre-indictment custody in Camden County when, six months later, he was transported to Bucks County. There, Pennsylvania detectives again administered Miranda warnings but did not provide counsel as Wint had earlier requested. This time, Wint waived his rights and allegedly said: “In June 2011 I committed a murder in Camden.” He was charged in a Camden County indictment with murder and other offenses.

A determinative fact was that the police did not provide access to counsel. As a practical matter, this almost never occurs. Once a suspect invokes their Miranda rights, every effective attorney would advise a client to make no statements. Police therefore just cease their attempts to question as opposed to going through the trouble to bring in an attorney first.