Florida Court Upholds Murder Conviction, Finds Defendant Made “Unequivocal” Waiver Of Miranda Rights
The police are required to inform you of your Miranda rights before they interrogate you. These rights include the ability to refuse to answer any questions and/or speak with an attorney. It is common practice for the police to ask a suspect if they wish to “voluntarily” waive these rights and answer questions. If the suspect answers “no,” then the interrogation must cease.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is crucial that you clearly and ambiguously invoke your Miranda rights. If you give a vague or unclear answer, the officer is required to ask for clarification. But keep in mind, once you say “yes” to waiving your rights, the police are not required to ask you again–and any information that you do volunteer could be used against you in court.
A recent decision from the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal, Petit v. State, offers a cautionary tale on this point. In this case, a jury found the defendant guilty of committing first-degree murder. The crime occurred at a Broward County nightclub in 2015.
After the police arrested the defendant, a detective conducted an interrogation. The detective asked the defendant if he wished to make a statement. In response, the defendant “can be seen placing his hands together and making a shrug-like gesture with no verbal response,” according to the Fourth District’s opinion. The detective then asked for clarification: “Knowing and understand[ing] your rights, do you want to talk to me and have a conversation about why you’re here, why I got an arrest warrant for you?” The defendant answered, “Yes.”
At trial, the defendant moved to suppress the information he gave to the detective during the rest of the interrogation. The defendant argued his initial, nonverbal gestures were a sufficient invocation of Miranda and required the detective to cease questioning. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and as previously noted, the jury found the the defendant guilty of murder.
The Fourth District upheld the jury’s verdict. Like the trial judge, the appellate court said the detective acted properly in asking a “follow up” question after the defendant initially “non-verbal response when asked if he wanted to speak.” Once the defendant gave an “unequivocal” yes to the follow-up, anything he said was fair game. As far as the Court was concerned, the defendant understood his Miranda rights and chose to waive them.
Contact Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Jose Baez Today
A police interrogation is an inherently stressful experience. Many people feel pressured to speak to the police even when informed of their right to remain silent. But you should not be afraid to invoke your rights–including the right to counsel. If you need legal advice or representation from an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney, contact the Baez Law Firm today to schedule an initial consultation.