Maryland v. Shatzer

130 S. Ct. 1213 (2010)

(The Break in Custody case)

 

Context

In 2003, Michael Blain Shatzer Sr. was interviewed by a member of the Hagerstown, MD Police Department concerning allegations that Shatzer had sexually abused his three-year old child. During the interview, Shatzer invoked his 5th Amendment right to remain silent and declined to answer questions. Three years later, however, Shatzer was again sought by police after his daughter, now six years of age, had provided her mother with more details about the abuse she suffered by Shatzer. Unaware that Shatzer had in the prior investigation invoked his 5th Amendment rights, a detective informed Shatzer of his 5th Amendment rights, which Shatzer then waived before confessing to previously sexually abusing his daughter. In trial court, Shatzer claimed that his invocation of his 5th Amendment right to silence still applied in 2006 when he confessed, so his confession was inadmissible. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Scalia, the Court ruled that Edwards does not require the suppression of Shatzer’s 2006 confessions since there was a significant break (longer than two weeks) in his Miranda custody and there was no reason to believe that Shatzer’s change in testimony between 2003 and 2006 was coerced by some external pressure. The plaintiff had been released from investigative custody for 14 days, and the Court determined 14 days to be the required time for a person to readjust to their normal life after being held in investigative custody. Under Edwards a time for readjustment after being held in custody had not been specified, and this case provided a clarification for future cases in which questions of the duration of Miranda rights were at issue. Though Justice Stevens concurred with the other Justices in the decision, he took care to emphasize his opinion that he believed police interrogations to be a coercive environment regardless of the amount of time that has passed since a prior interrogation by police, and that the coercive powers of police officers should not be underestimated.


How the Justices Voted

Majority: Scalia, joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor; Thomas (part III)

Concurrence: Thomas

Concurrence: Stevens

 

Facts:

In August 2003, a social worker assigned to the Child Advocacy Center in the Criminal Investigation Division of the Hagerstown Police Department referred to the department allegations that respondent Michael Shatzer, Sr., had sexually abused his 3-year-old son. At that time, Shatzer was incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown, serving a sentence for an unrelated child-sexual-abuse offense. Detective Shane Blankenship was assigned to the investigation and interviewed Shatzer at the correctional institution on August 7, 2003. Before asking any questions, Blankenship reviewed Shatzer's Miranda rights with him, and obtained a written waiver of those rights. When Blankenship explained that he was there to question Shatzer about sexually abusing his son, Shatzer expressed confusion--he had thought Blankenship was an attorney there to discuss the prior crime for which he was incarcerated. Blankenship clarified the purpose of his visit, and Shatzer declined to speak without an attorney. Accordingly, Blankenship ended the interview, and Shatzer was released back into the general prison population. Shortly thereafter, Blankenship closed the investigation.

Two years and six months later, the same social worker referred more specific allegations to the department about the same incident involving Shatzer. Detective Paul Hoover, from the same division, was assigned to the investigation. He and the social worker interviewed the victim, then eight years old, who described the incident in more detail. With this new information in hand, on March 2, 2006, they went to the Roxbury Correctional Institute, to which Shatzer had since been transferred, and interviewed Shatzer in a maintenance room outfitted with a desk and three chairs. Hoover explained that he wanted to ask Shatzer about the alleged incident involving Shatzer's son. Shatzer was surprised because he thought that the investigation had been closed, but Hoover explained they had opened a new file. Hoover then read Shatzer his Miranda rights and obtained a written waiver on a standard department form.

Hoover interrogated Shatzer about the incident for approximately 30 minutes. Shatzer denied ordering his son to perform fellatio on him, but admitted to masturbating in front of his son from a distance of less than three feet. Before the interview ended, Shatzer agreed to Hoover's request that he submit to a polygraph examination. At no point during the interrogation did Shatzer request to speak with an attorney or refer to his prior refusal to answer questions without one.

Five days later, on March 7, 2006, Hoover and another detective met with Shatzer at the correctional facility to administer the polygraph examination. After reading Shatzer his Miranda rights and obtaining a written waiver, the other detective administered the test and concluded that Shatzer had failed. When the detectives then questioned Shatzer, he became upset, started to cry, and incriminated himself by saying, "I didn't force him. I didn't force him."

After making this inculpatory statement, Shatzer requested an attorney, and Hoover promptly ended the interrogation."

Question:

Whether a break in custody ends the presumption of involuntariness established in Edwards v. Arizona.        

Reasoning:

To establish a valid waiver, the State must show that the waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary under the "high standar[d] of proof for the waiver of constitutional rights.”

When, unlike what happened in these three cases, a suspect has been released from his pretrial custody and has returned to his normal life for some time before the later attempted interrogation, there is little reason to think that his change of heart regarding interrogation without counsel has been coerced. He has no longer been isolated. He has likely been able to seek advice from an attorney, family members, and friends. And he knows from his earlier experience that he need only demand counsel to bring the interrogation to a halt; and that investigative custody does not last indefinitely. In these circumstances, it is farfetched to think that a police officer's asking the suspect whether he would like to waive his Miranda rights will any more "wear down the accused," than did the first such request at the original attempted interrogation--which is of course not deemed coercive.

Voluntary confessions are not merely "a proper element in law enforcement," they are an "unmitigated good," "essential to society's compelling interest in finding, convicting, and punishing those who violate the law."

The protections offered by Miranda, which we have deemed sufficient to ensure that the police respect the suspect's desire to have an attorney present the first-time police interrogate him, adequately ensure that result when a suspect who initially requested counsel is re-interrogated after a break in custody that is of sufficient duration to dissipate its coercive effects.

If Shatzer's return to the general prison population qualified as a break in custody, there is no doubt that it lasted long enough (two years) to meet that durational requirement.

We think it appropriate to specify a period of time to avoid the consequence that continuation of the Edwards presumption "will not reach the correct result most of the time." It seems to us that period is 14 days. That provides plenty of time for the suspect to get reacclimated to his normal life, to consult with friends and counsel, and to shake off any residual coercive effects of his prior custody.

We have never decided whether incarceration constitutes custody for Miranda purposes. Whether it does depends upon whether it exerts the coercive pressure that Miranda was designed to guard against--the "danger of coercion [that] results from the interaction of custody and official interrogation." To determine whether a suspect was in Miranda custody we have asked whether "there is a 'formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement' of the degree associated with a formal arrest." Miranda is to be enforced "only in those types of situations in which the concerns that powered the decision are implicated." Thus, the temporary and relatively nonthreatening detention involved in a traffic stop or Terry stop, does not constitute Miranda custody.

Without minimizing the harsh realities of incarceration, we think lawful imprisonment imposed upon conviction of a crime does not create the coercive pressures identified in Miranda.

Interrogated suspects who have previously been convicted of crime live in prison. When they are released back into the general prison population, they return to their accustomed surroundings and daily routine--they regain the degree of control they had over their lives prior to the interrogation. Sentenced prisoners, in contrast to the Miranda paradigm, are not isolated with their accusers.

Their detention, moreover, is relatively disconnected from their prior unwillingness to cooperate in an investigation. The former interrogator has no power to increase the duration of incarceration, which was determined at sentencing. And even where the possibility of parole exists, the former interrogator has no apparent power to decrease the time served. This is in stark contrast to the circumstances faced by the defendants in Edwards, Roberson, and Minnick, whose continued detention as suspects rested with those controlling their interrogation, and who confronted the uncertainties of what final charges they would face, whether they would be convicted, and what sentence they would receive.

Holding:

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

 

Key Takeaway

Prevention of badgering is the justification for the Edwards rule, and where that concern does not apply, neither does Edwards.

A 14-day break in custody provided plenty of time for a suspect to get reacclimated to his normal life, to consult with friends and counsel, and to shake off any residual coercive effects of his prior custody. Though, Stevens concurrence notes 14 days shouldn't always be dispositive. If the suspect is denied counsel for 14 days, then there is no reason to believe the coercive effects are magically gone on day 15.   


Court Syllabus:

In 2003, a police detective tried to question respondent Shatzer, who was incarcerated at a Maryland prison pursuant to a prior conviction, about allegations that he had sexually abused his son. Shatzer invoked his Mirandaright to have counsel present during interrogation, so the detective terminated the interview. Shatzer was released back into the general prison population, and the investigation was closed. Another detective reopened the investigation in 2006 and attempted to interrogate Shatzer, who was still incarcerated. Shatzer waived his Miranda rights and made inculpatory statements. The trial court refused to suppress those statements, reasoning that Edwards v. Arizona did not apply because Shatzer had experienced a break in Miranda custody prior to the 2006 interrogation. Shatzer was convicted of sexual child abuse. The Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed, holding that the mere passage of time does not end the Edwards protections, and that, assuming, arguendo, a break-in-custody exception to Edwards existed, Shatzer's release back into the general prison population did not constitute such a break.

Held: 

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 2006 statements.

(a) Edwards created a presumption that once a suspect invokes the Miranda right to the presence of counsel, any waiver of that right in response to a subsequent police attempt at custodial interrogation is involuntary. Edwards' fundamental purpose is to "[p]reserv[e] the integrity of an accused's choice to communicate with police only through counsel," by "prevent[ing] police from badgering [him] into waiving his previously asserted Miranda rights.” It is easy to believe that a suspect's later waiver was coerced or badgered when he has been held in uninterrupted Miranda custody since his first refusal to waive. He remains cut off from his normal life and isolated in a "police-dominated atmosphere," where his captors "appear to control [his] fate." But where a suspect has been released from custody and returned to his normal life for some time before the later attempted interrogation, there is little reason to think that his change of heart has been coerced. Because the Edwards presumption has been established by opinion of this Court, it is appropriate for this Court to specify the period of release from custody that will terminate its application. The Court concludes that the appropriate period is 14 days, which provides ample time for the suspect to get reacclimated to his normal life, consult with friends and counsel, and shake off any residual coercive effects of prior custody.

(b) Shatzer's release back into the general prison population constitutes a break in Miranda custody. Lawful imprisonment imposed upon conviction does not create the coercive pressures produced by investigative custody that justify Edwards. When previously incarcerated suspects are released back into the general prison population, they return to their accustomed surroundings and daily routine--they regain the degree of control they had over their lives before the attempted interrogation. Their continued detention is relatively disconnected from their prior unwillingness to cooperate in an investigation. The "inherently compelling pressures" of custodial interrogation ended when Shatzer returned to his normal life.