The defendant was arrested for two robberies. Once in custody, an officer attempted to interview him regarding the robberies. The defendant was brought to an office in the police headquarters building, where the officer advised the defendant of his Miranda rights and had him read and sign a notification certificate. He also had the defendant orally acknowledge an understanding of his rights. When the officer attempted to question him, the defendant stated that he did not wish to answer any questions about the robberies. He did not, however, request to speak with counsel. The officer immediately ceased the interrogation and took the defendant to a cell. Over two hours later, a homicide detective had the defendant moved to a different office building for questioning about a homicide that was unrelated to the robberies for which the defendant had been arrested. Again, the defendant was read his Miranda rights and signed a notification certificate. Within 15-minutes, the defendant made a statement implicating himself in the homicide. At no time during this interview did the defendant request a lawyer or indicate that he did not wish to discuss the homicide. Additionally, at no time was the defendant asked any questions regarding the robberies for which he had been arrested. The incriminating statement was introduced at the defendant’s first-degree murder trial and he was convicted.
Whether the police violated the defendant’s rights by questioning him about an unrelated crime after he had invoked his right to remain silent?
No. The police may re-approach the defendant after he invoked his right to remain silent.
In answering this question, the Court relied almost entirely on a single passage from their decision in Miranda v. Arizona: “If the individual indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease.” The Miranda decision never addressed “under what circumstances, if any, a resumption of questioning is permissible.” What was clear, however, was that nothing in the Miranda opinion “can sensibly be read to create a per se proscription of indefinite duration upon any further questioning by any police officer on any subject, once the person in custody has indicated a desire to remain silent.”
The Court concluded “that the admissibility of statements obtained after the person in custody has decided to remain silent depends under Miranda on whether his right to cut off questioning was ‘scrupulously honored.’” In this case, a review of the circumstances led the Court to hold that the defendant’s right to cut off questioning was “scrupulously honored.” First, before his initial interrogation, the defendant was fully informed of his Miranda rights, orally acknowledged an understanding of those rights, and signed a notification certificate. Second, when the defendant stated that he did not wish to answer questions about the robberies, all questioning immediately ceased. Third, a significant period of time (more than two hours) passed before a different officer, in a different location, regarding a different crime, next questioned the defendant. Fourth, before his second interview, the defendant was again fully advised of his Miranda rights.
423 U.S. 96, 96 S. Ct. 321 (1975)