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Law School Case Brief

McNeil v. Wisconsin - 501 U.S. 171, 111 S. Ct. 2204 (1991)


The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is offense specific and cannot be invoked once for all future prosecutions. It does not attach until a prosecution is commenced, that is, at or after the initiation of adversary judicial criminal proceedings, whether by way of formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or arraignment. 


Charged with an armed robbery in West Allis, Wisconsin, petitioner McNeil was represented by a public defender at a bail hearing. While in jail on that charge, he was questioned by police about a murder and related crimes in Caledonia, Wisconsin. He was advised of his Miranda rights, signed forms waiving them, and made statements incriminating himself in the Caledonia offenses. He was then formally charged with the latter crimes, his pretrial motion to suppress his statements was denied, and he was convicted. His conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, which held that an accused's request for counsel at an initial appearance on a charged offense does not constitute an invocation of his Fifth Amendment right to counsel that precludes police interrogation on unrelated, uncharged offenses. McNeil argued that his courtroom appearance with an attorney for the initial charge constituted an invocation of the Miranda right to counsel. McNeil asserted any subsequent waiver of that right was invalid. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari review.


Did McNeil's invocation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel during a judicial proceeding constitute an invocation of the right to counsel derived by Miranda v. Arizona from the Fifth Amendment's guarantee against compelled self-incrimination?




The Court held that McNeil invoked his Sixth Amendment right to counsel at his initial appearance. The Court determined that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel did not bar the admission of defendant's statements. The Court found that the assertion of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel did not imply an assertion of the Miranda right to counsel. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

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