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Court rules man invoked right to counsel

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found a man’s question, “Can I get a lawyer?” during police questioning unambiguously and unequivocally invoked his Fifth Amendment right to counsel, so the trial court erred in denying the man’s motion to suppress statements he made to police.

In Dana L. Lewis, Jr. v. State of Indiana, No. 40A01-1106-CR-276, Dana Lewis was invited by Jennings County Sheriff’s Sergeant Karen McCoy for an interview regarding an alleged sex crime with a 13-year-old girl. McCoy told Lewis he was not under arrest and free to leave at any time, read him his Miranda rights, and then began asking Lewis about the crime. During questioning, Lewis asked, “Can I get a lawyer?” but police continued questioning Lewis. Lewis spoke about the alleged crime for a few more minutes until asking whether he was under arrest or would be under arrest. Lewis was arrested two days later and charged with Class A felony child molesting.

Lewis filed a motion to suppress his statements to McCoy, arguing they were obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment right to counsel. At a hearing, both parties stipulated that Lewis reasonably believed he was in custody and not free to leave, but the judge ultimately denied the motion.

The Court of Appeals reversed, rejecting the state’s argument that the trial court stipulation that Lewis believed he was in custody shouldn’t have any bearing on the appeal. The stipulation binds the state on the question of whether Lewis was in custody, wrote Judge Cale Bradford.

The judges cited United States v. Lee, 413 F.3d 622, 626 (7th Cir. 2005), in which the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals deemed a suspect’s question “Can I have a lawyer?” to be similar to other statements recognized by the court as proper invocations of the right to an attorney.

“Much as the question, ‘Can I get the car tonight?’ would be universally understood as a request to borrow the car tonight, and not as a theoretical question regarding one’s ability to borrow the car tonight, we have little trouble concluding that Lewis’s question would be understood by any reasonable police officer as an unequivocal request for counsel,” Bradford wrote.

The appellate court remanded for further proceedings.

 

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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