What can a “lawyer dog” teach us about invoking your right to counsel?
Anyone who has ever watched an episode of Law and Order has heard of the Miranda rights. Indeed, the right to remain silent and the right to court-appointed counsel are some of the biggest protections afforded in our criminal justice system.
As a general matter, it is important to know that if you are being questioned by police in a custodial setting you have the right to request an attorney, and this request will cease all questioning by law enforcement officers. However, if your invocation is not clear and unequivocal in nature, it can have serious implications for your case because it will allow police to continue questioning, potentially extracting incriminating statements to be used at trial.
But how do you make your request properly? A recent case out of the Louisiana Supreme Court that captured the attention of social media tells us just how clear your request has to be.
Warren Demesme, a 22-year-old rape suspect, was being interrogated by New Orleans police when he grew frustrated and stated:
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.
Warren never got his attorney, confessed to the crimes, and is now facing trial for two counts of rape. His attorney filed a motion to suppress, arguing that Warren had clearly and unequivocally invoked his right to counsel. The Louisiana Supreme Court disagreed, highlighting the ambiguity of the phrase “lawyer dog.”
I would argue that it isn’t Warren’s use of the phrase “lawyer dog” that caused his headache. Instead, his problem is that he communicated to the officers that whether he actually wanted a lawyer was dependent on their subjective beliefs. In short, he left open the argument that officers might have been confused about what he was requesting.
What did we learn from Warren?
When you are being questioned by police regarding your involvement in a criminal matter, invoke your right to counsel clearly and unequivocally. Using phrases like “I think I may need an attorney” or “maybe I want an attorney now” just don’t cut it. Make sure there is no way for the State to argue that the officers were reasonably confused about what you want. Assert your rights.
If you have questions about your rights, contact Rebecca Gray today for a free consultation. Having an attorney who is knowledgeable about the protections afforded to you is imperative to defending your case. Call now!