23 January 2004

In reference to my former post on Hilliard v. Commonwealth a reader asks:
I'm curious if you have any advice for your blog readers on the correct way to request a lawyer during an interview. If "I would like a lawyer here so I don't get in trouble" doesn't count as a request for council being present during interrogations, what does? Is there a catch phrase that must be repeated a certain way? Do you have to click your heels together three times as you say it?
Well, I tell my clients that they have to say exactly this phrase: "I will not talk to you without my attorney, Mr. Lammers." Anything less will be deflected by the officer: "Can't I have my attorney here?" Officer: "Sure you can but I just want to ask you a couple of questions. First . . ." While reasonable people would realize this is an attempt to ask for an attorney that's not the standard. The standard is that the Defendant must have made an undeniable assertion of his rights. If there least little equivocality Virginia courts will not recognize the assertion.

Of course, even if the Defendant makes the unequivocal assertion the police can come back later and try again and again and again - as long as they stop each time when the Defendant unequivocally asserts his rights. I've only had one officer do that to a client of mine but they can do it (at least as long as they don't try to question the Defendant about specific charges for which he has counsel assigned).

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