Obama: Allow Police Questioning Without Lawyer


The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to overrule long-standing law that stops police from initiating questions unless a defendant’s lawyer is present. The Associated Press says the case is another example of the White House seeking to limit rather than expand rights. Several administration’s actions have disappointed civil liberties groups that expected Obama to reverse the policies of his Republican predecessor.

The case at issue is Michigan v. Jackson, in which the Supreme Court said in 1986 that police may not initiate questioning of a defendant who has a lawyer or has asked for one, unless the attorney is present. The decision applies even to defendants who agree to talk to the authorities without their lawyers. The Justice Department, in a brief signed by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, said the 1986 decision “serves no real purpose” and offers only “meager benefits.” The government said defendants who don’t wish to talk to police don’t have to and that officers must respect that decision. It said there is no reason a defendant who wants to should not be able to respond to officers’ questions.

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