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United States v. Rought

3rd Circuit

August 24, 2021

The Third Circuit analyzed the defendant’s “limited invocation” of his right to counsel. The defendant was arrested for possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute resulting in death. During his interrogation, an agent asked about the victim. The defendant stated, “I don’t really want to talk about that aspect without my lawyer.” The questioning continued about different topics. However, in discussing those other subjects, the defendant quickly brought the conversation back around to the victim — and then made incriminating statements. The defendant moved to suppress his entire statement. The District Court denied the motion. The Third Circuit affirmed. On appeal, the defendant argued that his invocation of the right to counsel was not limited but was for all purposes and that law enforcement was therefore required to cease interrogation entirely. The Third Circuit disagreed and held that after a limited invocation of the right to counsel, the interrogation could continue on topics not covered by the invocation. If the suspect, without prompting from law enforcement, then voluntarily reinitiates discussion of a covered topic and waives her previously invoked rights, it is consistent with the Fifth Amendment for the suspect’s statements about a covered topic to be admissible at trial. The Third Circuit found that is what happened in this case.

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