If you are arrested because you are suspected of committing a crime, there are certain procedures that must be followed. Before police can begin to interrogate you or ask you questions, they are required to read you your rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. These rights, known as Miranda Rights, include your right to remain silent or not incriminate yourself, your right to an attorney (or if you cannot afford an attorney, your right to have an attorney appointed for you at no cost), and your right to have your attorney present before you answer any questions.
Protecting the Constitutional rights of citizens has always been of great importance to both the federal government and individual state governments. Because of this, supreme courts often hear cases that assert that people were wrongly convicted of a crime because their Constitutional rights were violated. This is exactly the case in a recent appeals case heard by the Connecticut Supreme Court.
The Right to an Attorney During Interrogation
Earlier this month, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on State v. Purcell, a case concerning a man arrested on sexual assault charges who was denied counsel after he made repeated, though indirect, statements about having an attorney present. The man was convicted of three counts of risk of injury to a child and received a sentence of 16 years in prison, suspended after 9 years, plus 10 years of probation. The man appealed the conviction, but the appellate court upheld the decision.
Police transcripts showed that the man made repeated statements about having his attorney present when police were interrogating him about the incidents. Though he made these statements multiple times, he did not clearly and definitively demand to have his attorney present, which is why police ignored the statements and continued to question him. The questioning produced statements that were used against the man and eventually led to his conviction.
The man’s attorneys appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court and stated that the police not only failed to clarify whether or not he was invoking his right to an attorney, but they also discouraged and deterred him from exercising that right.
The Connecticut Supreme Court’s Decision
A previous U.S. Supreme Court case, Davis v. United States, set the precedent that during an interrogation, police were not obligated to stop and clarify a suspect’s ambiguous statements about having an attorney present. The Connecticut Supreme Court came to the decision that the actions of the officers met the standards set by the Davis case. However, the Court stated in its decision that under the Connecticut Constitution, suspects are provided with an additional layer of protection beyond what is provided by the federal Constitution and that the Davis rule could leave some citizens vulnerable. The Court ruled that Connecticut police officers are required to cease questioning in order to clarify an ambiguous request for counsel before they continue an interrogation, and because the officers in this case did not do so, the case was remanded to a lower court for a new trial.
Contact a Connecticut Criminal Defense Attorney
Being accused of any crime can be a terrifying experience. Prior to this Connecticut Supreme Court case, there were very few protections given to suspects who did not expressly request that they would like an attorney to be present during questioning. Now, the Connecticut Supreme Court has stated that police must pause to clarify any vague requests for counsel. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we strive to uphold all rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens. Our knowledgeable Hartford, CT criminal defense lawyer can help those who are facing criminal charges, as well as those who want to appeal a conviction on the basis that their rights were violated. Call our office today at 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation.