U.S. v. Warren, No. 10-1598 (3d Cir. April 21, 2011)
Warren was indicted for intent to distribute crack cocaine and possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a felony. At a suppression hearing, the police officer recounted the unread warning that he gave to Warren in the police station:
I told [Warren] that he had the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you without charge before any questioning if you wish. Should you decide to talk to me, you can stop the questioning any time.
The district court for the Western District of Pennsylvania refused to suppress Warren’s statements. Warren appealed this decision to the Third Circuit.
Affirming the district court’s decision, the Third Circuit held that a warning lacking both an explicit reference to a right to counsel after the commencement of questioning and a “catch all” is sufficient if it reasonably conveys the substance of the rights expressed in Miranda.
While acknowledging that the warning in this case was not the clearest possible and noting that it was given at a police station where a written warning should be readily available, the Third Circuit did conclude that, taken as a whole, the warning did reasonably convey Warren’s Miranda rights.
Analyzing Miranda and its progeny, the Third Circuit found that the officer’s statement about appointed counsel merely indicated when that right was triggered, and a reasonable person could not interpret it as restricting what the Court believed was the previous, unqualified declaration of Warren’s general right to counsel.
*I highly recommend reading Judge Greenaway’s dissent, also.