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Name: Florida v. Powell
Case #: 08-1175
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 02/23/2010
Subsequent History: 130 S.Ct. 1195; 175 L.Ed.2d 1009

Although Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436 requires that prior to custodial questioning, a suspect be clearly informed that he has a right to consult with an attorney and have the attorney with him during questioning, there is no precise required script. The issue is whether the rights have been adequately conveyed. Powell was arrested for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and advised that he had, “the right to talk to a lawyer before answering our questions. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for you without cost and before any questioning. You have the right to use any of these rights at anytime during this interview.” He waived his rights and admitted possession of the firearm. At trial, he moved to suppress his statement on the grounds the warning did not adequately convey his right to an attorney, but the court denied the motion. The Florida appellate court and the Florida Supreme Court found the warning deficient and reversed and the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to hear the matter. The U. S. Supreme Court found that it had jurisdiction because the Florida opinion did not expressly indicate a state ground for its decision. The Court then explained that Miranda requires that an absolute prerequisite to interrogation is advisement of an individual’s right to an attorney. The Court then indicated that it has not dictated the precise words that must be used and declines to do so here. Rather than focusing on the words, the inquiry is simply if the warnings reasonably convey to the suspect his rights, as required by Miranda. Here, the admonition given to Powell prior to questioning clearly conveyed that he had a right to consult with an attorney before answering any question and that he could still exercise the right once the interrogation had started.