When Can You Invoke Your Miranda Rights? MN Supreme Court Says Not Too Early

Knowing when can you invoke your Miranda rights should be simple, right? The cops want to talk to you about something, you think all I have to do is say I want a lawyer and I should be good, right…right? Unfortunately, it is not that easy. The simplest way to remember when you can invoke your Miranda rights is to ask whether you are in custody and being interrogated. Custody + interrogation = Miranda. But what if you know you are about to be interrogated or think you are about to be questioned by law enforcement? Or, just want to ask for a lawyer after being detained by a cop?

Recently, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a defendant does not have a right to a lawyer under the Fifth Amendment when interrogation by law enforcement is merely “imminent”. In Critt, the defendant was placed in handcuffs by officers, taken to the law enforcement center, and put in an interview room. While in custody, the defendant asked twice “Where’s my lawyer?” He was not given access to a lawyer, but he was also not questioned or interrogated at that time. The next day, officers came to interview him, read him a Miranda warning, and asked him questions for more than thirty minutes before the defendant asked for a lawyer. At that point, officers stopped questioning him. The defendant argued that his request for a lawyer the day prior and the subsequent questioning the day after violated his Miranda rights and his statements should be suppressed.

The Minnesota Supreme Court declined to a rule that defendants can assert their Fifth Amendment rights when interrogation is imminent, even though some states and federal jurisdictions have that rule. After all, why should a person have to wait for a Miranda warning or interrogation to invoke their Miranda rights? If the person knows the interrogation is very likely going to start in the very near future, why make them wait? The Minnesota Supreme Court took an easy way out and reasoned that the United States Supreme Court has never held that a suspect can invoke their Fifth Amendment rights when interrogation is imminent. Instead of requiring courts, law enforcement, and actors within the criminal justice system to engage in some fact-specific analysis, the Minnesota Supreme Court reasoned that an imminent interrogation rule poses serious practical difficulties of making people determine when interrogation is imminent. Surely one can think of a totality of the circumstances test and the use of reasonableness in a legal analysis for when interrogation is imminent. After all those are two favorite tools within criminal law jurisprudence. But, the Minnesota Supreme Court was not interested. They decided to keep a bright-line rule.

The Minnesota Supreme Court did refuse, however, to tighten the Miranda safeguards even further. They did not agree with the prosecution’s assertion that an officer needs to ask a question for Miranda rights to attach. There are equivalents to interrogation in the law enforcement context, such as psychological ploys meant to induce incriminating statements. But, none of that happened in the present case according to the court.

Regardless of what the supreme court decided in this matter. A person should not stop asking for a lawyer when encountered with police questioning. It is never easy for a person to understand when their Miranda rights come into play. Because of television, many think that as soon as a cop arrests you, then they need to read you a Miranda warning. Custody plus interrogation is the trigger. When you are not given a lawyer, or the cops keep asking you questions, it is unlikely to hurt anything to keep asking for a lawyer. Once they do give you access to a phone, most defense attorneys, including our firm, offer consultations at no charge.

Robert H. Ambrose is a criminal defense attorney and DWI lawyer in Minnesota. Minnesota. Super Lawyers named him Super Lawyer this year and a Rising Star in the six years before that. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. DWI Lawyer Woodbury MN; Criminal Defense Attorney St. Paul MN; and Criminal Appeals Attorney Minnesota.