Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452 (1994)

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certiorari to the united states court of military appeals

No. 92-1949. Argued March 29, 1994—Decided June 24, 1994

Petitioner, a member of the United States Navy, initially waived his rights to remain silent and to counsel when he was interviewed by Naval Investigative Service agents in connection with the murder of a sailor. About an hour and a half into the interview, he said, "Maybe I should talk to a lawyer." However, when the agents inquired if he was asking for a lawyer, he replied that he was not. They took a short break, he was reminded of his rights, and the interview continued for another hour, until he asked to have a lawyer present before saying anything more. A military judge denied his motion to suppress statements made at the interview, holding that his mention of a lawyer during the interrogation was not a request for counsel. He was convicted of murder, and, ultimately, the Court of Military Appeals affirmed.

Held: 1. After a knowing and voluntary waiver of rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436, law enforcement officers may continue questioning until and unless a suspect clearly requests an attorney. A suspect is entitled to the assistance of counsel during custodial interrogation even though the Constitution does not provide for such assistance. Id., at 469-473. If the suspect invokes that right at any time, the police must immediately cease questioning him until an attorney is present. Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U. S. 477, 484-485. The Edwards rule serves the prophylactic purpose of preventing officers from badgering a suspect into waiving his previously asserted Miranda rights, and its applicability requires courts to determine whether the accused actually invoked his right to counsel. This is an objective inquiry, requiring some statement that can reasonably be construed to be an expression of a desire for an attorney's assistance. However, if a reference is ambiguous or equivocal in that a reasonable officer in light of the circumstances would have understood only that the suspect might be invoking the right to counsel, Edwards does not require that officers stop questioning the suspect. Extending Edwards to create such a requirement would transform the Miranda safeguards into wholly irrational obstacles to legitimate investigative activity by needlessly preventing the police from questioning a suspect in the absence of an attorney, even if the

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