New Jersey Criminal Lawyer – Appellate Opinions – Florida v. Powell

Florida v. Powell, 130 S. Ct. 1195 (2010)

Miranda requires that a suspect “be warned prior to any questioning … that he has the right to the presence of an attorney.” This Miranda warning addresses the Court’s particular concern that “[t]he circumstances surrounding in-custody interrogation can operate very quickly to overbear the will of one merely made aware of his privilege [to remain silent] by his interrogators.” Responsive to that concern, the Court stated, as “an absolute prerequisite to interrogation,” that an individual held for questioning “must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation.” While the warnings prescribed by Miranda are invariable, this Court has not dictated the words in which the essential information must be conveyed In determining whether police warnings were satisfactory, reviewing courts are not required to “examine [them] as if construing a will or defining the terms of an easement. The inquiry is simply whether the warnings reasonably ‘conve[y] to [a suspect] his rights as required by Miranda.’

By informing Powell that he had “the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of [their] questions,” the Tampa officers communicated that he could consult with a lawyer before answering any particular question. And the statement that Powell had “the right to use any of [his] rights at any time [he] want[ed] during th[e] interview” confirmed that he could exercise his right to an attorney while the interrogation was underway. In combination, the two warnings reasonably conveyed the right to have an attorney present, not only at the outset of interrogation, but at all times. To reach the opposite conclusion, i.e., that the attorney would not be present throughout the interrogation, the suspect would have to imagine the counterintuitive and unlikely scenario that, in order to consult counsel, he would be obliged to exit and reenter the interrogation room between each query.

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