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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > May 2013 > State v. Baker, Third District Court of Appeals, April 29, 2013

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State v. Baker, Third District Court of Appeals, April 29, 2013

Question: After a suspect invokes his right to counsel under Miranda, can an officer initiate conversation with the suspect without additional Miranda warnings?
Quick Answer: No. When a suspect invokes his right to counsel, all interrogation must cease.

Facts: Travis Jay Baker was indicted on multiple charges, assigned counsel, and incarcerated in jail pending his trial. The detective on the case visited Baker in the jail and attempted to question him. However, Baker repeatedly invoked his right to counsel. The detective continued to press Baker to cooperate and speak to him, but Baker continued to refuse. Eventually, the detective turned off his tape recorder — presumably ending the interrogation — but he kept talking to Baker in hopes Baker would talk. Baker eventually incriminated himself.
The court found that the continuing conversation — which the detective initiated — violated Baker’s constitutional right against self-incrimination and found the statement should have been suppressed.
Why this case is important: Miranda is difficult to master and full of pitfalls for officers.
In this case, the detective said, “Look, you know, if you change your mind and you want to talk, let us know. We’re just trying to figure out if somebody else was involved” and “I know you feel bad.”  Many officers would not consider this “questioning” or “interrogation” that required additional Miranda warnings. However, what an officer thinks of as “just having a conversation,” a court may well see as a subtle continuation of an interrogation.
Keep in mind: The U.S. Supreme Court has said that once a suspect invokes his right to counsel, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that he responded to further police-initiated custodial interrogation even if he has been advised of his rights. In other words, when a suspect asks for his attorney, nothing he says after that is admissible unless 1) he initiates the conversation without police prompting, or 2) he expressly waives his right to counsel.
View the Ohio Third District Court of Appeals website to view the entire opinion.