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Name: People v. Martinez
Case #: S074624
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 01/14/2010

Police do not have a duty to stop and clarify an amibiguous assertion of the right to remain silent; like the right to counsel, it must be unambiguously and unequivocally asserted. Police were investigating appellant regarding an assault, when they became suspicious he was involved in several other assaults and a murder. The first interrogation on the night of appellant’s arrest for assault ended when appellant said, “That’s all I can tell you.” The next morning, police questioned appellant about the assault and the murder for a while and said they were going to take a break, to which appellant responded, “I don’t want to talk anymore right now.” That afternoon, police asked more questions, including whether appellant would take a polygraph. He said he should talk to a lawyer before he did that. The following day, police asked to talk to appellant and during this interrogation he admitted committing two assaults. The trial court denied appellant’s challenge to admission of his statements as violative of Miranda, and the Supreme Court affirmed. Citing Davis v. U.S. (1994) 512 U.S. 452, the court noted that the assertion of the right to counsel must be unambiguous and unequivocal. Here it was not because it was contingent on being subject to a polygraph exam. The court then applied the same Davis standard to the invocation of the right to remain silent. Appellant’s statement at the first interrogation, “that’s all I can tell you,” was not invocation of the right, but rather a way of saying that was all the information he had. Likewise, his statement the next day saying that he did not “want to talk anymore right now” was consistent with the officer’s indication they were taking a break and would come back later, to which appellant replied, “okay.” Had he been invoking the right to remain silent, he could have said he did not want to talk even after a break.