An appeal in a Louisiana Supreme Court case was denied recently, which may seem like a normal day to day experience, however the opinion caught our eye. The Louisiana case turns on the issue of whether the defendant requested a lawyer during questioning by police. The suspect stated to the police interrogators, “this is how I feel, if y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog cause this is not what’s up.” On its face, this statement appears to show the defendant was requesting a lawyer in hopes of avoiding self-incrimination, however one Justice’s opinion has brought another, more humorous, view.
In a typical police interrogation a suspect is within his or her rights to terminate the interview at any time by requesting a lawyer. The right to end questioning barring the presence of an attorney is one of the most well-known, yet often forgotten, rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Typically, one refers to this right as a Miranda Right, named for the case State v. Miranda which brought it into the United States common law. The right to request an attorney has been carefully tailored over the years in order to allow the police more leeway in interrogating. State v. Davis established that the request for a lawyer must be clear and unambiguous, a prime example of the tailoring of the right to an attorney during questioning.
In the recent Louisiana decision, a Justice wrote in his concurring opinion that the request for a “lawyer dog” is not an unambiguous request, which has led to some humorous controversy. It seems the Justice was indicating the defendant may have been requesting a canine companion who is well versed in the law. Now, anyone even slightly versed in the modern English language knows the term “dog” is often used to refer to a friend or colleague in more friendly settings. This leads us to believe the Justice likely wrote this into his opinion as a joke, however it does highlight the issue of ambiguity which comes up so very often in Miranda issues.
We here at Bleile & Dawson enjoy the company of dogs as much as the next person, however we concur with the Justice in this case that dogs are not qualified to sit for the bar exam in all 50 states just yet. With that being said, it is always best to be clear and unambiguous when you choose to end a police interrogation. “I need to speak with my attorney prior to answering any questions” is a prime example of being clear and unambiguous. If you are ever unsure, make sure you immediately contact a competent attorney when you are approached by police. Otherwise, serious damage to any case against you can and will occur.
The attorney’s at Bleile & Dawson are extremely knowledgeable in criminal law, especially when it comes to defending our clients against wrongful accusations, whether in the State of Ohio or the Commonwealth of Kentucky. If you feel that you have wrongly been accused of a crime and seek to find the best possible representation to fight for you, hire a law firm that puts the client first and fights hard to protect the client. Contact us today for a completely confidential consultation at 513-564-0088.