“MAYBE I should talk to a lawyer.” Is that enough to get a lawyer under Miranda? Davis v. US (1994)

Petitioner, Davis, is a member of the United States Navy. A serviceman was murdered on the Charleston Navy Base and the investigation by the NIS, the Naval Investigative Service, gradually focused on petitioner.

After being advised of his rights to remain silent and to counsel, Davis agreed to talk with NIS agents. About an-hour-and-a-half into the interview, he said “Maybe I should talk to a lawyer.” The agents asked him whether he was asking for a lawyer or just making a comment about a lawyer, and he said “no, I am not asking for a lawyer”, and, “no, I do not want a lawyer.” The agents then continued questioning him.

In Miranda decision back in 1966, the Court held that a suspect is entitled to the assistance of counsel during custodial interrogation even though the Constitution does not provide for such assistance. In 1981 Edwards decision, the Court held that if the suspect invokes the right to counsel anytime the policeman immediately seize questioning until an attorney is present.

In Davis, the Court held that unless the suspect actually requests an attorney by making a statement that a reasonable officer in the light of the circumstances would understand to be an invocation of the right to counsel questioning may continue. No MAYBEs! The NIS agents were not required to stop questioning Davis though it was entirely proper for them if they wished to clarify whether he wanted a lawyer. There is no ground for suppression of Davis’s statements.

Something to keep in mind:

  1. Miranda Applies during CUSTODIAL INTERROGATION. Custody: are you free to leave? Interrogation: elicit incriminating statements.
  2. Do not speak to the police without a lawyer! Suppressing statements is usually an uphill battle in court!

Full case here: Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452 (1994), https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/512/452/#tab-opinion-1959565

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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