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Monday, August 31, 2009

Previewing the Coming Term (Part 10): Florida v. Powell

[This is the tenth in a series of posts by CrimProf’s graduate fellow, Peter Stockburger (University of San Diego Class of 2009), previewing the criminal law and procedure cases scheduled for argument in the U.S. Supreme Court this coming term. This case has not yet been assigned an argument date, and the parties' merits briefs have not yet been filed. Peter excerpts and paraphrases the briefs of the parties regarding the cert petition to provide an overview of the cases and the advocates’ arguments. Links to the opinion below appears at the end of the summary.]

Docket No.: 08-1175
Case: Florida v. Powell
Oral Argument Date: not yet assigned

Issue: Must a statement be suppressed if the suspect was not expressly advised of his right to have counsel present during interrogation, even if the suspect was advised of the right to talk with an attorney "before questioning" and the "right to use" any of his rights "at any time" during interrogation.

Factual & Procedural History: In 2004, Florida police arrested respondent, Kevin Dwayne Powell, and transported him to police headquarters where he was questioned after being advised of his Miranda rights. 

At trial, during the direct examination of the investigating detective, respondent’s trial counsel objected to testimony concerning respondent’s statements to police on the ground that the Miranda warning given was invalid.  Subsequent testimony revealed that the standard police form used during the interrogation of respondent did not explicitly indicate he had the right to have an attorney present during questioning.  The warning read as follows:

" You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of our questions. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for you without cost and before any questioning. You have the right to use any of these rights at any time you want during this interview."

The trial court ruled that the warning was adequate.

On appeal, the Second District reversed respondent’s conviction, holding that the Miranda warnings were deficient under the Fifth Amendment because respondent was not “clearly informed” of his right to have a lawyer with him during questioning.  

The Florida Supreme Court affirmed, holding that respondent was not clearly informed of his right to have counsel present during questioning.  According to the Florida Supreme Court, the standard police form used during the interrogation of respondent failed Miranda because it did not expressly state that respondent had the right to have counsel present during the interrogation, which is “indispensable to the protection of the Fifth Amendment privilege.”  Consequently, according to the Florida Court, because both Miranda and the Florida Constitution require that a “suspect be clearly informed of the right to have a lawyer present during questioning,” the Second District’s decision was affirmed.

Petitioner's Argument: Merits brief not yet filed.

Respondent's Argument: Merits brief not yet filed.

Opinion below

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