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Law School Case Brief

Fare v. Michael C. - 442 U.S. 707, 99 S. Ct. 2560 (1979)

Rule:

Under Miranda, a totality-of-the-circumstances approach is adequate to determine whether there has been a waiver even where interrogation of juveniles is involved. There is no persuasive reasons why any other approach is required where the question is whether a juvenile has waived his rights, as opposed to whether an adult has done so. The totality approach permits, indeed, it mandates, inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding the interrogation. This includes evaluation of the juvenile's age, experience, education, background, and intelligence, and into whether he has the capacity to understand the warnings given him, the nature of his Fifth Amendment rights, and the consequences of waiving those rights. 

Facts:

Respondent Michael C., at the time 16 1/2 years old, was taken into custody by Van Nuys, CA, 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, Michael, 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, Michael 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 Supreme Court reversed, holding that Michael'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. 

Issue:

Was Michael’s request to see his probation officer, made while undergoing custodial interrogation, a per se invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights as pronounced in Miranda?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court held that a probation officer did not stand in the same position as did an attorney for the accused when the accused invoked his Fifth Amendment rights under Miranda. Accordingly, it was error to find that Michael’s request to speak with his probation officer constituted an invocation of his Fifth Amendment of self-incrimination. Therefore, the statements Michael made were not subject to suppression because he had knowingly waived his Fifth Amendment rights.

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