492 U.S. 195 (1989).
One-Sentence Takeaway: In order for a Miranda warning to be valid, it is not required that the warning be given in the exact form as set forth in Miranda v. Arizona, and informing a suspect that an attorney would be appointed for him “if and when you go to court” does not render a warning inadequate under the Miranda ruling where the warning otherwise touches all the bases in advising a suspect of his right against self-incrimination.
Summary: A local police department modified its Miranda warning script as follows:
“Before we ask you any questions, you must understand your rights. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have a right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions, and to have him with you during questioning. You have this right to the advice and presence of a lawyer even if you cannot afford to hire one. We have no way of giving you a lawyer, but one will be appointed for you, if you wish, if and when you go to court. If you wish to answer questions now without a lawyer present, you have the right to stop answering questions at any time. You also have the right to stop answering at any time until you’ve talked to a lawyer.” (Emphasis added.)
The foregoing changes were made to take into account the reality that the police department was not able to immediately provide a lawyer to advise suspects taken into custody at all times of the day and night.
Defendant challenged the foregoing warning as inadequate under Miranda v. Arizona and argued that the “if and when you go to court” language improperly linked appointment of counsel to a future point in time after interrogation.
The Supreme Court of the United States disagreed with Defendant and held that the warning given was valid and “touched all of the bases,” because the police told respondent that he had the right to remain silent, that anything he said could be used against him in Court, that he had the right to speak to an attorney before and during questioning, that he had this right to the advice and presence of a lawyer even if he could not afford to hire one, and that he had the right to stop answering at any time until he talked to a lawyer.
The Court further explained that the articulation that a lawyer would be appointed “if and when you go to court” was, in fact, accurate (since the counsel is appointed at arraignment), adding “Miranda does not require that attorneys be producible on call, but only that the suspect be informed, as here, that he has the right to an attorney before and during questioning, and that an attorney would be appointed for him if he could not afford one.”