Garcia v. Long

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 12-21-2015
  • Case #: 13-57071
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Bybee for the Court; Circuit Judge Fisher and District Judge Foote
  • Full Text Opinion

A criminal suspect in custody of police must unambiguously and unequivocally invoke the right to remain silent for interrogation by the officer to cease, and if an officer tries to clarify an unambiguous request, then receives an equivocal response, the suspect’s post-request testimony cannot be used to question the clarity of the first request.

Jane Doe told her family that her step-grandfather Francisco Garcia had sexually assaulted her. A few months later, she reported the abuse to Child Protective Services. Garcia was brought into the police station for questioning and read his Miranda rights. The officer then asked Garcia if he wanted to talk to him and Garcia responded “no.” The officer asked additional questions to clarify Garcia’s answer and eventually Garcia said he would talk with him. Garcia subsequently confessed to the abuse and the tape of his confession was admitted at trial. Garcia was found guilty on all charges and appealed. The California Court of Appeal held that Garcia’s response of “no” was ambiguous and unequivocal in light of other statements he made during the interview, and rejected Garcia’s claim that playing his confession at trial was not harmless. Garcia filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Ninth Circuit held that a reasonable jurist would have concluded that “no” meant “no”, and upheld the district court’s judgment granting Garcia’s habeas petition. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held that a criminal suspect in custody must be advised of certain rights, including the right to remain silent. Once the police reads a suspect their Miranda rights, the suspect has the right to stop questioning and the police must comply. A suspect must unambiguously and unequivocally invoke the right to remain silent for the interrogation to cease. If an officer tries to clarify an unambiguous request and then receives an equivocal response, then the suspect’s post-request testimonies cannot be used to question the clearness of the first request. Garcia’s answer of “no” was not qualified and it was his privilege to remain silent even if his answer was based on lack of understanding of the charges. AFFIRMED.

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