Montejo v. Louisiana: Police Interrogation Power Increased

Constitutional Rights to Legal Counsel and Against Self-IncriminationThe Supreme Court's ruling in Montejo v. Louisiana in 2009 expands law enforcement's power to interrogate people suspected of committing a crime, and highlights the need for people to guard their constitutional rights to legal counsel and against self-incrimination.

Montejo v. Louisiana (2009)The case involved Jesse Montejo, who was arrested for the robbery and murder of Lewis Ferrari. When he was arrested, Montejo was advised of his Miranda rights, which he waived. When questioned by police, Montejo eventually admitted to committing the murder. At a subsequent hearing, Montejo was appointed a defense attorney since he couldn't afford to hire one. Before Montejo had the opportunity to meet with his lawyer, however, detectives approached him and convinced him to go with them as they searched for the murder weapon. Montejo was again advised of his Miranda rights. He nevertheless decided to accompany the detectives, and while in the car he wrote an apology letter to the victim's widow. Montejo finally met with his lawyer after he returned from the excursion with the detectives. Over the objections of Montejo's lawyer, the apology letter was introduced as evidence by prosecutors during trial. Montejo was found guilty and sentenced to death.

In his appeal, Montejo claimed that his Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel and Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination had been violated, and that police should not have been allowed to speak with him and convince him to join them on their search for evidence.

Increased Scope of Police InterrogationThe Supreme Court disagreed with Montejo and stated that by waiving his Miranda rights, Montejo had allowed police to continue talking with him and asking him to help look for evidence. Just because a defendant has been appointed legal counsel, the Court said, police are not prevented from trying to gather evidence. This power to investigate is not unlimited, however, the Court stated. Specifically, once a defendant invokes his Miranda right to legal counsel, police must stop their interrogation until a defense lawyer is present.

The Importance of Quality Legal RepresentationBeing arrested and facing criminal charges is a frightening experience. The Supreme Court's decision in Montejo highlights the necessity of having an experienced criminal lawyer to protect your rights. If you have questions about a police interrogation that you or someone you know was subjected to, call me at (916) 442-1200 for a free and confidential consultation.