Fare v. Michael C.
Annotate this Case
442 U.S. 707 (1979)
U.S. Supreme Court
Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707 (1979)
Fare v. Michael C.
Argued February 27, 1979
Decided June 20, 1979
442 U.S. 707
Respondent, at the time 16 1/2 years old, was taken into custody by Van Nuys, Cal., 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, respondent, 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, respondent 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 respondent'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.
1. The California Supreme Court erred in finding that respondent's request for his probation officer was a per se invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights under Miranda, and therefore also erred in holding that, because the police did not cease interrogating respondent the statements and sketches made during the interrogation should have been suppressed. Pp. 442 U. S. 716-724.
(a) The rule in Miranda that, if an accused indicates in any manner that he wishes to remain silent or to consult an attorney, interrogation must cease, was based on the unique role the lawyer plays in the adversary system of criminal justice. A probation officer is not in a position to offer the type of legal assistance necessary to protect the Fifth Amendment rights of an accused undergoing custodial interrogation that a lawyer can offer. Pp. 442 U. S. 719-722.
(b) The fact that a relationship of trust and cooperation might exist between a probation officer and a juvenile does not indicate that the officer is capable of rendering effective legal advice sufficient to protect the juvenile's rights during police interrogation, or of providing the other services rendered by a lawyer. Similarly, the fact that the probation officer has a statutory duty to protect the juvenile's interests does not make the officer any more capable of rendering legal assistance to the juvenile or of protecting his legal rights, especially where the officer also has a statutory duty to report wrongdoing by the juvenile and serve the ends of the juvenile court system. Pp. 442 U. S. 722-723.
(c) A juvenile's request to speak with his probation officer does not constitute a per se request to remain silent, nor is it tantamount to a request for an attorney. Pp. 442 U. S. 723-724.
2. Whether the incriminating statements and sketches were admissible on the basis of waiver was a question to be resolved on the totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation. On the basis of the record, it is clear that respondent voluntarily and knowingly waived his Fifth Amendment rights and consented to continued interrogation, and that the statements and sketches obtained from him were voluntary, and hence their admission in the Juvenile Court proceeding was correct. Pp. 442 U. S. 724-727.
21 Cal.3d 471, 579 P.2d 7, reversed and remanded.
BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 442 U. S. 728. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 442 U. S. 732.
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