The Right to a Lawyer in Florida Assault Cases

The right to an attorney is a crucial part of the American criminal justice system. The U.S. Supreme Court, in the groundbreaking Miranda case, made clear that criminal suspects have the right not to talk to cops without a lawyer by their side. As Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal recently explained, police officers can’t try to get a person to change their mind once the person has invoked his or her Miranda rights.

gun and moneyA defendant was charged with three counts of armed robbery and one count of assault while he was already in jail on unrelated crimes. An investigating officer approached him, looking for information about an armed robbery in Broward County. Two weeks later, the defendant and another man were transferred to the Broward Country Sheriff’s Office for questioning as suspects in the armed robbery. An officer tried to go over a form with the defendant, waiving his Miranda rights, when the defendant asked:  “They sending me a lawyer?” The officer said the defendant could stop the interview at any time. He also showed him photos of other suspects in the case. “They’re talking,” the officer said. “First one talks, deals.”

The defendant was left in the interrogation room for several hours. He was forced to urinate in the room after asking unsuccessfully to use the bathroom. When a police officer brought the defendant food, he told him:  “I know you asked for your attorney; I’m not going to talk to you, but I’m going to let you know that you are being charged with armed robbery.” When the defendant later asked if he was in fact being charged with the crime, the officer said repeatedly “You want to talk to me?” until the defendant nodded his head. The officer went over the Miranda form with the defendant, during which he said he agreed to talk to the officer but also said “yeah” when asked whether he had previously requested an attorney. “You have. But you still want to make a statement with me, right?” the detective said. The defendant responded:  “Yeah.” The defendant eventually admitted to participating in the robbery. He was convicted on all four counts.

Reversing the decision on appeal, the Fourth District said the officers violated the defendant’s Miranda rights by continuing to engage with him after he invoked his right to a lawyer. “An individual held for interrogation must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation,” the court explained. “If the suspect requests a lawyer, then interrogation must not commence, and if any such interrogation has already begun, then it must immediately stop until a lawyer is present.”

In this case, the court said the defendant made an unequivocal request for an attorney at the start of the interrogation. Although prosecutors claimed that the defendant later changed his mind, the court said the officers had to honor the defendant’s request as soon as it was made. As a result, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug or other crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced attorney. Tampa assault defense lawyer Will Hanlon is a seasoned attorney who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (813) 228-7095 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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