Wednesday, May 27, 2009
United States Supreme Court Ruling on Police Interviews of Defendants in Absence of a Lawyer
The United States Supreme Court issued an important and law-changing decision this week on the issue of whether police may interview a defendant in the absence of his lawyer. In the case of Montejo v. Louisiana (see http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/08pdf/07-1529.pdf), the United States Supreme Court held that police may in fact interview a defendant even if the defendant has a known lawyer if the defendant voluntarily chooses to speak with the police. This watershed decision overruled a 35-year-old decision from the United States Supreme Court which barred the practice. How this decision is applied or used by various police and prosecutorial authorities remains to be seen. If we have a situation involving an unsophisticated defendant (i.e. a defendant that is unaware of his or her right to remain silent in the absence of their lawyer), the potential for abuse may be huge. We'll just have to wait and see.