442 U.S. 707 (1979), 78-334, Fare v. Michael C.

Docket Nº:No. 78-334
Citation:442 U.S. 707, 99 S.Ct. 2560, 61 L.Ed.2d 197
Party Name:Fare v. Michael C.
Case Date:June 20, 1979
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 707

442 U.S. 707 (1979)

99 S.Ct. 2560, 61 L.Ed.2d 197

Fare

v.

Michael C.

No. 78-334

United States Supreme Court

June 20, 1979

Argued February 27, 1979

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA

Syllabus

Respondent, at the time 16 1/2 years old, was taken into custody by Van Nuys, Cal., police on suspicion of murder. Before being questioned at the station house, he was fully advised of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436. At the outset of the questioning, respondent, who was on probation to the Juvenile Court, had served a term in a youth corrections camp, and had a record of prior offenses, asked to see his probation officer. But when the police denied this request, respondent stated he would talk without consulting an attorney, and he then proceeded to make statements and draw sketches implicating him in the murder. Upon being charged in Juvenile Court with the murder, he moved to suppress the incriminating statements and sketches on the ground that they had been obtained in violation of Miranda in that his request to see his probation officer constituted an invocation of his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, just as if he had requested the assistance of an attorney. The court denied the motion, holding that the facts showed that respondent had waived his right to remain silent, notwithstanding his request to see his probation officer. The California [99 S.Ct. 2563] Supreme Court reversed, holding that respondent's request for his probation officer was a per se invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights in the same way the request for an attorney was found in Miranda to be, regardless of what the interrogation otherwise might reveal. This holding was based on the court's view that a probation officer occupies a position as a trusted guardian figure in a juvenile's life that would make it normal for the juvenile to turn to the officer when apprehended by the police, and was also based on the state law requirement that the officer represent the juvenile's interests.

Held:

1. The California Supreme Court erred in finding that respondent's request for his probation officer was a per se invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights under Miranda, and therefore also erred in holding that, because the police did not cease interrogating respondent the statements and sketches made during the interrogation should have been suppressed. Pp. 716-724.

Page 708

(a) The rule in Miranda that, if an accused indicates in any manner that he wishes to remain silent or to consult an attorney, interrogation must cease, was based on the unique role the lawyer plays in the adversary system of criminal justice. A probation officer is not in a position to offer the type of legal assistance necessary to protect the Fifth Amendment rights of an accused undergoing custodial interrogation that a lawyer can offer. Pp. 719-722.

(b) The fact that a relationship of trust and cooperation might exist between a probation officer and a juvenile does not indicate that the officer is capable of rendering effective legal advice sufficient to protect the juvenile's rights during police interrogation, or of providing the other services rendered by a lawyer. Similarly, the fact that the probation officer has a statutory duty to protect the juvenile's interests does not make the officer any more capable of rendering legal assistance to the juvenile or of protecting his legal rights, especially where the officer also has a statutory duty to report wrongdoing by the juvenile and serve the ends of the juvenile court system. Pp. 722-723.

(c) A juvenile's request to speak with his probation officer does not constitute a per se request to remain silent, nor is it tantamount to a request for an attorney. Pp. 723-724.

2. Whether the incriminating statements and sketches were admissible on the basis of waiver was a question to be resolved on the totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation. On the basis of the record, it is clear that respondent voluntarily and knowingly waived his Fifth Amendment rights and consented to continued interrogation, and that the statements and sketches obtained from him were voluntary, and hence their admission in the Juvenile Court proceeding was correct. Pp. 724-727.

21 Cal.3d 471, 579 P.2d 7, reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 728. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 732.

Page 709

BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), this Court established certain procedural safeguards designed to protect the rights of an accused, under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, to be free from compelled self-incrimination during custodial interrogation. The Court specified, among other things, that, if the accused indicates in any manner that he wishes to remain silent or to consult an attorney, interrogation must cease, and any statement obtained from him during interrogation thereafter may not be admitted against him at his trial. Id. at 444-445, 473-474

In this case, the State of California, in the person of its acting chief probation officer, [99 S.Ct. 2564] attacks the conclusion of the Supreme Court of California that a juvenile's request, made while undergoing custodial interrogation, to see his probation officer is per se an invocation of the juvenile's Fifth Amendment rights as pronounced in Miranda.

I

Respondent Michael C. was implicated in the murder of Robert Yeager. The murder occurred during a robbery of the victim's home on January 19, 1976. A small truck registered in the name of respondent's mother was identified as having been near the Yeager home at the time of the killing, and a young man answering respondent's description was seen by witnesses near the truck and near the home shortly before Yeager was murdered.

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On the basis of this information, Van Nuys, Cal., police took respondent into custody at approximately 6:30 p.m. on February 4. Respondent then was 16 1/2 years old, and on probation to the Juvenile Court. He had been on probation since the age of 12. Approximately one year earlier, he had served a term in a youth corrections camp under the supervision of the Juvenile Court. He had a record of several previous offenses, including burglary of guns and purse snatching, stretching back over several years.

Upon respondent's arrival at the Van Nuys station house, two police officers began to interrogate him. The officers and respondent were the only persons in the room during the interrogation. The conversation was tape-recorded. One of the officers initiated the interview by informing respondent that he had been brought in for questioning in relation to a murder. The officer fully advised respondent of his Miranda rights. The following exchange then occurred, as set out in the opinion of the California Supreme Court, In re Michael C., 21 Cal.3d 471, 473-474, 579 P.2d 7, 8 (1978) (emphasis added by that court):

Q. . . . Do you understand all of these rights as I have explained them to you?

A. Yeah.

Q. Okay, do you wish to give up your right to remain silent and talk to us about this murder?

A. What murder? I don't know about no murder.

Q. I'll explain to you which one it is if you want to talk to us about it.

A. Yeah, I might talk to you.

Q. Do you want to give up your right to have an attorney present here while we talk about it?

A. Can I have my probation officer here?

Q. Well I can't get a hold of your probation officer right now. You have the right to an attorney.

A. How I know you guys won't pull no police officer in and tell me he's an attorney?

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Q. Huh?

A. [How I know you guys won't pull no police officer in and tell me he's an attorney?]

Q. Your probation officer is Mr. Christiansen.

A. Yeah.

Q. Well I'm not going to call Mr. Christiansen tonight. There's a good chance we can talk to him later, but I'm not going to call him right now. If you want to talk to us without an attorney present, you can. If you don't want to, you don't have to. But if you want to say something, you can, and if you don't want to say something, you don't have to. That's your right. You understand that right?

A. Yeah.

Q. Okay, will you talk to us without an attorney present?

A. Yeah I want to talk to you.

Respondent thereupon proceeded to answer questions put to him by the officers. He made statements and drew sketches that incriminated him in the Yeager murder.

[99 S.Ct. 2565] Largely on the basis of respondent's incriminating statements, probation authorities filed a petition in Juvenile Court alleging that respondent had murdered Robert Yeager, in violation of Cal.Penal Code Ann. § 187 (West Supp. 1979), and that respondent therefore should be adjudged a ward of the Juvenile Court, pursuant to Cal.Welf. & Inst. Code Ann. § 602 (West Supp. 1979).1 App. 4-5. Respondent thereupon moved to suppress the statements and sketches he gave the police during the interrogation. He alleged that the statements had been obtained in violation of Miranda in that

Page 712

his request to see his probation officer at the outset of the questioning constituted an invocation of his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, just as if he had requested the assistance of an attorney. Accordingly, respondent argued that, since the interrogation did not cease until he had a chance to confer with his probation officer, the statements and sketches could not be admitted against him in the Juvenile Court proceedings. In so arguing, respondent relied by analogy...

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