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The decision in this case is indisputably correct, but to the extent that the decision suggests that a defendant can validly waive his Sixth Amend-ment right to counsel without being informed of the charges against him, based only on Miranda warnings, the suggestion is suspect.

As noted, the court formulated the following conclusion of law: “At the onset of post-charge pretrial police interrogations, the accused must be made aware that the adversarial process has begun and that he or she can request the assistance of counsel at the onset of post-charge pretrial police interrogations. This can be accomplished by informing the accused that he or she has been formally charged with a crime, by reading to the accused the Miranda warnings, or by anything else that would inform the accused that the adversarial process has begun.”

The conclusion does not logically follow from the assumptions, however. The problem is that the adversarial process begins, not with arrest or interrogation, but with the filing of a complaint or an arrest warrant. Kirby v. Illinois, 406 U.S. 682, 689 (1972); Jones v. State, 63 Wis.2d 97, 105, 216 N.W.2d 224, 228 (1974).

It is logically impossible for the defendant to be “made aware that the adversarial process has begun” without telling him that charges have been filed (or if he already knows, as in Patterson and Dagnall).

Nor do all of the cases cited from other jurisdictions support the court’s conclusion that Miranda warnings alone would suffice.

Among the cases cited for that proposition is United States v. Carrasco, 887 F.2d 794, 818 (7th Cir. 1989). The court of appeals stated the holding of that case to be, “accused’s waiver valid because Miranda warnings were given.”

However, that is a deceptive statement, because Carrasco was informed of the charges against him, a point the court explicitly noted, just as in Patterson. Carrasco, 887 F.2d at 799. Thus, Carrasco does not support the broad conclusion the court of appeals drew from it.

The other Seventh Circuit case cited, Quadrini v. Clusen, 864 F.2d 577 (7th Cir. 1989), also does not explicitly reject the argument that the defendant must be informed of the charges against him.

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Wisconsin Court of Appeals

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Waiver requires knowledge of charges

Quadrini only argued that he was entitled to some additional warnings above and beyond the Miranda warnings, not that he be informed of the charges (Car-rasco had raised both arguments).

Thus, the Seventh Circuit’s statements in Quadrini that waiver of Miranda warnings is sufficient do not necessarily support the conclusion the court of appeals drew from it.

Another problem with the court’s conclusion is that, unlike the Fifth Amendment right to counsel, the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is offense-specific. Thus, a defendant cannot knowingly and intelligently waive the Sixth Amendment right to counsel as to a particular charge, unless he is aware of the charges against him.

It is unfathomable that a valid waiver would be found if a defendant waived his right to counsel in a courtroom, after being told only of his right to counsel, but not the charges. It should be equally unfathomable in the far less sanitized milieu of police interrogation.

Accordingly, if a client is given Miranda warnings, but not told of the charges against him, defense counsel still has a good argument for suppression, this decision notwithstanding.

– David Ziemer

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David Ziemer can be reached by email.

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