Specificity Matters: Suspect’s request for a “Lawyer, Dog” ambiguous


Almost everyone is aware of the rights that a criminal suspect is entitled to when questioning by the police.  These rights, known as Miranda rights, include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney during questioning.  Although rarely invoked by the criminal suspect, these are often cited by criminal defense attorneys as the most important constitutional rights that one has.

If a suspect invokes his right to remain silent or is right to an attorney, police are constitutionally required to stop questioning until a lawyer is present.  If the police continue questioning, any statements made after invocation of the rights are inadmissible against the defendant.

However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the invoking of the right to an attorney must be unambiguous and unequivocal.  If a reasonable police officer is unsure as to whether the suspect is in fact invoking his rights, then questioning may continue.

Courts have often used this exception to the rule to make an end around the Fifth Amendment.  In a shocking decision out of the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Court ruled in a near unanimous decision that the statement “just give me a lawyer dog” was not a clear and unambiguous invocation of the right to counsel.  The Court ruled that the suspects reference to a “lawyer dog does not constitute an invocation of counsel that warrants termination of an interview.”

It is clear that this suspect was not asking for a licensed canine attorney, so this case serves as an example of the fragility of this constitutional right.  If you are the subject of a police investigation, remain silent, be clear in you statements and consult one of the criminal attorney’s at Winslow & McCurry before engaging in any police questioning.