Manatee County Murder Suspect Gets a New Trial Because Police Interviewed Him Without His Lawyer Present

There are certain rights guaranteed to every citizen. One of these is the right to legal counsel in your criminal matter. If you think that you or a loved one is suspected of a domestic violence crime, it just makes good sense to act without delay and retain the services of an experienced Florida domestic violence attorney. The police are very skilled at their jobs. Make sure that you have skill on your side by having counsel representing you.

Once you’ve retained counsel, you have a right to have that attorney present when being questioned by the police, in many situations. If the police fail to follow this rule, you may be entitled to get statements you’ve made to them excluded from evidence. An example of this was the case of a Manatee County man named Cornelius. On the afternoon and evening of June 6, Cornelius had been acting strangely while visiting his parents’ home. By 4 a.m. on June 7, the parents took Cornelius to the hospital, and he was committed under the Baker Act. The Baker Act is a state law that allows for involuntary confinement of an individual due to mental illness. This commitment can be initiated by a judge, a police officer, a doctor, or a mental health professional.

That meant Cornelius was in the hospital and was not free to leave. On the evening of June 7, Cornelius’ mom returned to the hospital. The staff there told her she couldn’t see her son. Cornelius’ girlfriend, she was told, had been found murdered in her home, and the police were coming to question Cornelius. Cornelius’ mother did what a wise mom in her shoes should do:  she immediately retained legal counsel for her son. Cornelius’ lawyer arrived at the hospital sometime later, but the staff didn’t let him talk to his client. He left a business card with the staff.

After he left, the police showed up. Despite knowing that Cornelius had counsel who was not present, the police officers went ahead and interviewed the man. (They did not give him a Miranda warning either.) Cornelius gave the police conflicting statements about the last time he’d seen the victim alive. After the medical examiner concluded that the victim died from asphyxiation and was a victim of a homicide, the police arrested Cornelius.

The trial judge allowed the police’s interview with Cornelius into evidence. The trial court concluded that the accused was not entitled to a Miranda warning or to have his lawyer present because the interview was not a “custodial interrogation.” A custodial interrogation means that the person being questioned is in police custody and is not free to leave.

Cornelius appealed, and he won. He won because, in 2016, the Florida Supreme Court stated that, if the police question you in “a non-public location,” and an attorney arrives at that location announcing that he is there to represent you, the police must notify you about the attorney and why he is there. The police have this obligation whether or not the person they are interviewing is in custody or not. The Supreme Court has been very clear on this point. If your attorney shows up at a non-public location asking to speak with you, the police must tell you about the attorney’s “presence and purpose,” completely regardless of your status as “in police custody” or “not in police custody.”

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges or is suspected of a crime, don’t delay. Retain knowledgeable counsel to protect the rights of you or your loved one. The experienced Tampa Bay domestic violence attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. have been providing their clients with skillful criminal defense representation for many years. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation and get the information you need.

More blog posts:

Can You Be Convicted of Robbery With a Weapon in Florida When All You Had Was a Shotgun Barrel?, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, Feb. 14, 2018

How the State’s Inadequate Proof of Intent Got One Man an Acquittal in His Florida Grand Theft Case, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, Jan. 26, 2018

Contact Information