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Police in Florida Interrogating a Suspect Have to Alert Suspect That His/Her Attorney is Present

Most people in Florida are aware of the fact that when the police take someone into custody, that person has a right to remain silent and not talk to the police and have a right to an attorney before or during any discussion with police. The police are required to notify a suspect of these rights before taking any statement from a suspect in custody. However, there are times when the police are investigating a crime and ask a suspect to come to the police station and voluntarily speak to the police. If the suspect agrees, that suspect is likely not considered to be in custody, and the police do not have to read the suspect his/her rights about remaining silent and having an attorney. Many suspects do voluntarily speak to police and give incriminating statements without ever hearing their Miranda rights because they were not technically in custody. However, an incriminating statement made to the police is equally detrimental, whether the suspect was previously arrested or met with the police voluntarily and without being in custody.

A situation sometimes arises when a suspect is speaking with the police and his/her lawyer shows up or calls the police department to try and talk to the suspect/client or stop the questioning altogether. Do the police have to alert the suspect that his/her lawyer is outside or calling on the phone wanting to speak wit the suspect? Does it matter if the suspect never exercised his/her right to remain silent and request an attorney?

On legal shows on TV, you often see a police officer interrogating a suspect and then his/her lawyer barges into the room to stop the questioning. It does not work that way in real life. No lawyer is getting back to the interrogation room without one or more police officers letting the lawyer get back there. More likely, and how it seems to work in Jacksonville, Florida, the lawyer calls the police department or walks into the reception area and is told he/she cannot have access to the client, and the questioning continues.

That is no longer legal. A recent murder case south of Jacksonville, Florida decided by the Florida Supreme Court dealt with a murder suspect who voluntarily came to the police station to speak with the police. In the meantime, his parents hired a criminal defense lawyer who was told the suspect was giving a statement to police so he immediately went to the police station. The attorney asked to see his client, but he was denied. The suspect was not told that a criminal defense lawyer had been hired and was present at the police station. Shortly thereafter, the suspect confessed to the murder.

The criminal defense attorney filed a motion to suppress the confession arguing that the defendant was denied his due process rights since the police did not tell him his new lawyer was outside and requesting to speak with him. The motion was denied, but the issue made its way to the Florida Supreme Court. That Court held that the police have to tell the suspect that his/her criminal defense lawyer is present and wants to speak with the client. Then, the suspect has a right to stop the interrogation and consult with his/her criminal defense attorney. If the police fail to do this, the statement will be suppressed.

This is now the proper procedure whether the suspect is in custody after an arrest or came to meet with the police voluntarily. It is also the proper procedure whether or not the suspect himself requests a criminal defense lawyer prior to finding out a criminal defense attorney has been hired for him/her and is present.