The defendant was initially approached by officers for questioning while in prison serving a sentence for an unrelated conviction. Shatzer invoked his right to counsel, the interview was terminated, and the case closed. Still in prison more than 2-years later, the defendant was re-approached by officers, who had reopened the case. After being again advised of his Miranda rights and without counsel present, he waived his rights and made incriminating admissions that led to his conviction.
1. Whether post-conviction incarceration in prison constitutes custody for purposes of Miranda?
2. Whether a sufficient “break in custody” would permit officers to re-approach a suspect in custody who has previously invoked his right to counsel under Miranda and obtain a valid Miranda waiver without his counsel present?
1. No. An incarcerated suspect serving a prison sentence is not in custody for purposes of Miranda, absent some additional restraint being placed on the suspect’s freedom of movement.
2. Yes. A break in a suspect’s custody of 14 days or more is sufficient to allow officers to re-approach a suspect in custody who has previously invoked his right to counsel and obtain a valid Miranda waiver from the suspect without his counsel being present.
The rule in Edwards v. Arizona presumes invalid any Miranda waiver given by a suspect in custody and without counsel present, when re-approached by officers after he had previously invoked his right to counsel. This rule was intended to protect a suspect who has invoked his right to counsel – signifying his unwillingness to deal with officers directly – from overzealous officers who might exploit the inherently coercive circumstances of prolonged custody by badgering him into waiving that right. Unlike a suspect being held in pre-trial or investigative custody however, a prisoner serving a prison sentence is not subject to the same coercive pressures that both Miranda and Edwards intended to address. The prisoner cannot reasonably view submission to his interrogator’s will as affecting the circumstances of his continued incarceration. A police interrogation of a prisoner housed in the general prison population is thus not deemed to be a custodial interrogation without some additional coercive restraint being imposed on the prisoner.
Similarly, a sufficient break in custody, permitting a suspect to return to familiar people, surroundings, and routines, serves to diminish the coercive pressures of the custody such that the protections of Edwards are not justified. A break in custody of 14 days or more, which includes a prisoner’s return to the general prison population after invoking his Miranda right to counsel, is of sufficient duration to terminate the need for Edwards protection and permit officers to re-approach a suspect in a custodial setting and obtain a valid Miranda waiver.
559 U.S. 98, 130 S. Ct. 1213 (2010)