What do you do if the police want to question you? What happens if you receive a call or are otherwise asked to appear at a police station for questioning in a crime? Should you go? Should you bring an attorney? Will they arrest you? This blog will attempt to answer those questions
Since we offer free consultations (over the phone), we are often asked what a person should do if the police are asking them to “voluntarily” come to the police station to answer some questions. It’s a difficult question without knowing all the facts of the case. Generally we tell the person “NO”, and definitely not without an attorney. But what happens if you’re already in the police station being questioned and your attorney shows up to talk to you? Or what happens if a friend or family member knows you’re at the police station being questioned, and they hire an attorney on your behalf, but you don’t know about it?
The Florida Supreme Court just answered this question. If you are being questioned by the police in a non-public area, and an attorney arrives on your behalf – whether or not you are technically “in custody” and whether or not you have asked for an attorney – the police MUST notify you of the attorney’s presence. “Therefore, we now hold that when an individual is being questioned in a non-public area, and an attorney retained on his or her behalf arrives at the location, the Due Process Clause of the Florida Constitution requires that the police notify the individual of the attorney’s presence and purpose.” quoting State of Florida v. McAdams,
In this case, McAdams wife and boyfriend were missing. Although it was a Pasco County case, McAdams lived in Spring Hill, FL, which is in the adjacent county of Hernando. Detectives from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office went to his home and asked him to voluntarily come to the police station to answer questions. They drove him, uncuffed, but in the back of a patrol car to the Sheriff’s Office where he was questioned in a back room. The entire interview was videotaped. Several hours into the interview an attorney hired by McAdams parents, arrived at the front desk asking to speak with him. That attorney was denied all access and was told by the front desk staff that the detectives could not be interrupted. The attorney left, and shortly thereafter McAdams confessed to murdering his wife and her boyfriend. Shortly after that, and now “in custody” because Miranda warnings were read, he took the detectives to the bodies. After the confession and after the body was found, the detectives told him of the attorney’s presence.
The trial court in Dade City, Florida, denied the Motion to Suppress stating that because McAdams was not “in custody”, and supposedly free to leave the police station at any time, he did not have to be notified of the attorney’s presence in the police station. The Second DCA disagreed with the trial court, and because this case involved and alleged “non-custodial” interrogation, the Florida Supreme Court took on the certified question as one of great public importance. The question is whether or not the Due Process clause of the Florida Constitution requires law enforcement to notify a suspect in a non-custodial interrogation that an attorney has arrived wishing to speak with him. And the Florida Supreme Court says law enforcement must notify the suspect, regardless of whether or not he or she is in custody.
The Court cites this profound quote from a US Supreme Court case with similar facts “due process requires fairness, integrity, and honor in the operation of the criminal justice system, and in its treatment of the citizen’s cardinal constitutional protections.” Justice Stevens in a dissenting opinion of the US Supreme Court in Moran v. Burbine (1986)
Moreover, the Florida Supreme Court said that McAdams, inside of an interrogation room in the police station was “in custody”. The Court said that a “reasonable person” in McAdams situation would not think that he was free to leave at any time. Non -custodial interrogations do not require the police to read Miranda warnings. In this case, the Court said that the interrogation was initially non- custodial, but evolved into a custodial interrogation after a bathroom break where McAdams was accompanied to the bathroom by 3 officers who went into the bathroom with him. The Court said that no “reasonable person” would have felt they were free to leave at that point.
If you are being questioned by law enforcement, think you might be, or have been and you think your rights were violated, Call us. The criminal justice system requires fairness and integrity. Don’t let your rights be violated.