Maryland v. Shatzer Review

by Charles Gillingham

A recent case out of Merced, California, emphasizes again, how important it is for law enforcement officers to be up to date on the law. If you are reading the Third Degree Communications "Legal Update" you are taking positive steps to insure a reversal does not occur in one of your cases like it did in People v. Bridgeford 2015 DJDAR 11857.

FACTS

Bridgeford moved to suppress statements he made in two separate interviews. Both motions were denied in the trial court. The first interview commenced at around 8:45 a.m. at the police department. The interview ended when Bridgeford invoked his right to an attorney. He was released from custody after the interview. Later that same day, officers developed additional probable cause and Bridgeford was rearrested about 3 hours after the initial interview. Bridgeford and a co-conspirator were placed in the same room. The co-defendant told Bridgeford that law enforcement had the murder weapon and knew Bridgeford was involved. Officer reentered the room, Bridgeford was Mirandized, and agreed to talk. After three minutes and initially denying he was involved in the homicides, Bridgeford confessed to two murders.

Appeal

Defendant argued that the second interview was barred by the Maryland v. Shatzer (2010) 59 U.S. 98. The appellate court agreed.

Legal Knowledge You Need

Shatzer held that law enforcement must wait 14 days before it may resume questioning after a suspect has invoked his or her right to counsel and is released from Miranda custody. There are exceptions to this rule. If the suspect reinitiates questioning officers do not have to wait 14 days. Also, if the suspect has an attorney present and chooses to answer questions, officers do not have to wait 14 days to question. Remember, the 14 day clock begins when the suspect is released from Miranda custody.

The court found that because the first interview was custodial (defendant at substation, defendant handcuffed), even though he came voluntarily, officers needed to wait 14 days to question the suspect again.

The prosecution argued that Bridgeford initiated the second interview. The suspect said that his grandmother told him in the intervening three hours that he should not have invoked. The court found here that the officers went to defendant's work, handcuffed him, searched for weapons, and transported him back to the station. It was clear to the court that this was not a suspect reinitiation.

Unfortunately for the officers in this case, there is no way they could have known about the rule in Shatzer at the time of this case. Shatzer was decided after the arrests and interviews in this case. Shatzer was applied retroactively to this case. All we can do in law enforcement is be up to date on the law so the reversal of a murder conviction doesn't occur because we didn't know the law.