Montejo v. State of Louisiana Decided

April 14, 2009

Whether the police may interrogate an indigent defendant who has been assigned counsel without counsel present on the theory that the defendant never formally indicated that he accepted the appointment. DECIDED

The Sixth Amendment guarantees indigent defendants the right to appointed counsel. It also prohibits the police from interrogating a represented defendant without counsel present. The defendant in this case was appointed a lawyer. The state's argument that it was entitled to interrogate the defendant without his lawyer present because the defendant allegedly failed to indicate his willingness to accept appointed counsel is directly at odds with the constitutional principle that the appointment of counsel is valid absent an express waiver by the defendant. In addition, by introducing confusion into an area of the law that requires clarity, the state's proposed rule is both unfair and unworkable, as the ACLU explains in its amicus brief.

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