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Name: People v. Lessie
Case #: S163453
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 01/28/2010

A minor’s request to speak to a parent during a police interrogation is no longer presumptively construed as an invocation of Fifth Amendment rights. (Overruling People v. Burton (1971) 6 Cal.3d 375.) The question before the court in this case was whether the 16-year-old minor’s request to speak to his dad during a police interrogation for murder during which he confessed should have been treated as an invocation of the Fifth Amendment right to counsel. Minor’s counsel relied on People v. Burton which recognized that while most adults would request an attorney when they needed help, minors would normally ask for a parent when needing help, and so a request to speak to a parent during police interrogation should be viewed as an invocation of the right to counsel, absent evidence to the contrary. The court revisited its ruling in Burton and held it was no longer required after the High Court’s decision in Fare v. Michael C. (1979) 442 U.S. 707. That opinion reversed a California Supreme Court extension of the Burton rule which held a minor’s request to speak to a probation officer while in police custody was equivalent to the invocation of Fifth Amendment rights. In Fare, the Court clarified that only a request for an attorney constitutes a per se invocation of Fifth Amendment rights. If the suspect does not specifically ask for an attorney, then a court is to consider the totality of the circumstances. This is true even when it is a minor who is being interrogated, but with the understanding that factors like the minor’s age, experience, background and education are to be considered. Based on Fare, Burton’s presumptive weight to an invocation of rights when the minor asks to speak to a parent is, therefore, not a valid interpretation of federal law. Applying the correct standard to the facts of this case, there is no basis for construing the request to speak to the dad as an invocation of rights. The minor had completed the tenth grade, had held jobs in retail, had prior experience with the criminal justice system and confirmed several times he understood his Miranda rights.