Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981)

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In Edwards, the police arrested and questioned the defendant after advising him of his Miranda rights. He initially consented to questioning but later asked for an attorney. Questioning stopped at that time. The next day, police questioned him against his will, without counsel present. He answered freely and later confessed after the police played him the taped statement of an alleged accomplice. At trial, he challenged the confession, but the judge admitted it because it was voluntarily given.

In a nine-to-zero reversal, the Supreme Court analyzed its Miranda v. Arizona (1966) and Schneckloth v. Bustamonte (1973) holdings, and determined that the Constitution affords special protection to the right to counsel that cannot be protected by a merely voluntary waiver. It held that a confession can only be admitted when the suspect both voluntarily and knowingly relinquishes his Fifth Amendment right to counsel. The Court went further to protect the right, holding that once it has been invoked, a valid waiver must contain more than responses to police-initiated questioning. However, the Court noted that if the defendant initiates a subsequent conversation, he could be deemed to have waived his right.

Chief Justice Burger concurred in the judgment but voiced concern over the majority’s expansive holding. A second concurrence faulted the majority’s reliance on ‘‘initiation’’ as part of the waiver analysis. Subsequent cases interpreted Edwards broadly, leading the Court, in Minnick v. Mississippi (1990), to announce a bright-line rule that once a suspect invokes the right to counsel, he cannot be reinterrogated without counsel present.


References and Further Reading

  • Shapiro, Eugene L., Thinking the Unthinkable: Recasting the Presumption of Edwards v. Arizona, Oklahoma Law Review 53 (2000): 1:11–34.
  • Tomkovicz, James J., Standards for Invocation and Waiver of Counsel in Confession Contexts, Iowa Law Review 71 (1986): 4:975–1061.

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Minnick v. Mississippi, 498 U.S. 146 (1990)
  • Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)
  • Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218 (1973)

See also Miranda Warning; Rights of the Accused; Right to Counsel