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McNeil v. Wisconsin


The defendant was arrested for armed robbery. Two officers advised him of his Miranda rights, and sought to question him. The defendant refused to answer any questions, but did not request an attorney. The officers ended the interview. The defendant appeared at a bail hearing on the armed robbery charge and accepted representation by a public defender. Later that day, an officer visited the defendant as a part of an investigation of a completely unrelated murder. The officer advised the defendant of his Miranda rights. The defendant signed a waiver form and made admissions regarding the murder.


Whether an accused’s request for counsel at an initial appearance on a charged offense constitutes an invocation of his Fifth Amendment right to counsel that precludes police interrogation on unrelated, uncharged offenses?


No. An accused’s invocation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel during a judicial proceeding (bail hearing) does not constitute an invocation of the right to counsel derived from Miranda rights.


The Sixth Amendment right to counsel does not attach until the initiation of the adversarial judicial process. Even then, it only serves to guarantee the right to have counsel present for critical stages of the adversarial process that has initiated the right in the first place. Miranda protections apply to uncharged matters but only if the suspect is placed in custody and confronted with government interrogation.

The defendant’s invocation of his Sixth Amendment right with respect to the armed robbery does not restrict the use of his statements regarding uncharged offenses. The Miranda right to counsel is not offense-specific. Once asserted, it prevents any further government-initiated interrogation outside the presence of counsel. However, the invocation of the Sixth Amendment right does not impart a Miranda right. The two different rights to counsel have different purposes and effects. The Miranda protections are intended to ensure the suspect’s “desire to deal with the police only through counsel” for any encounter. The Sixth Amendment right is intended to protect the unaided layman at critical confrontations with the government after the initiation of the adversarial process with respect to a particular crime.


501 U.S. 171, 111 S. Ct. 2204 (1991)

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