(CN) – In its second Miranda case this week, the Supreme Court ruled that a suspect’s invocation of his Miranda rights protects him from police interrogation for at least two weeks after his release from custody. But after those 14 days, any incriminating statements can be used against him if he waives his rights in a subsequent interrogation.
In the underlying case, a detective tried to question inmate Michael Blaine Shatzer Sr. in 2003 about allegations that he had sexually molested his son. Shatzer refused to talk without a lawyer present, and Shatzer was released back into the general prison population, where he was serving time for a previous conviction.
During a second interrogation in 2006, however, Shatzer waived his Miranda rights and made incriminating statements.
The trial court refused to suppress those statements, and Shatzer was convicted of sexual child abuse.
The Maryland Court of Appeals overturned his conviction, citing the Supreme Court’s protections in Edwards v. Arizona, which assumes that any waiver of Miranda rights is involuntary after a suspect first invokes those rights.
“The Edwards presumption of involuntariness ensures that police will not take advantage of the mounting coercive pressures of ‘prolonged police custody’ by repeatedly attempting to question a suspect who previously requested counsel until the suspect is ‘badgered into submission,'” Justice Antonin Scalia explained.
The justices were asked to decide if the Edwards protections applied despite Shatzer’s 2.5-year “break” in Miranda custody.
The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the conviction, saying the Edwards protections extended no more than two weeks between the first and second interrogations.
“Because Shatzer experienced a break in Miranda custody lasting more than two weeks between the first and second attempts at interrogation, Edwards does not mandate suppression of his March 2006 statements,” Scalia wrote.
But because Edwards is a “judicially prescribed prophylaxis,” not a constitutional mandate, Scalia said the court must explain its decision to extend the protections. He said 14 days “provides plenty of time for the suspect to get re-acclimated to his normal life, to consult with friends and counsel, and to shake off any residual coercive effects of his prior custody.”
Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the ruling against Shatzer, but not with the Edwards extension.
The court’s decision “extends the presumption of involuntariness Edwards applies in custodial settings to interrogations that occur after custody ends,” Thomas wrote.
He called the two-week rule “arbitrary” and said the court failed to explain why it chose 14 days “as opposed to 0, 10, or 100 days.”