Legal Cheek

Suspect who asked for a ‘lawyer dog’ did not receive legal advice because request too ambiguous

Did he not mean ‘give me a lawyer, dog’?

The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled a defendant’s request for a “lawyer dog” during a police interview was too ambiguous, meaning he was not denied his constitutional right to legal advice.

The judgment, courtesy of Justice Scott Crichton, found that Warren Demesme, 24, only “ambiguously referenced a lawyer” during the second of two voluntary interviews relating to allegations he sexually assaulted a minor.

According to the bizarre ruling, Demesme was apparently advised of his Miranda rights (vaguely known as the right to silence in the United Kingdom), stated he understood them and subsequently chose to waive them. He then told interviewing officers:

“If y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog cause this is not what’s up.”

Unfortunately it would appear Demesme’s liberal use of street vernacular was his downfall. Crichton — citing current Louisiana case law — ruled that if a suspect’s request for a lawyer isn’t sufficiently clear then officers can continue with the interview. He said:

“[I]f a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal in that a reasonable police officer in light of the circumstances would have understood only that the suspect might be invoking his right to counsel, the cessation of questioning is not required.”

Concluding, Crichton said the defendant’s “reference to a ‘lawyer dog'” did not adequately constitute a request for legal advice. The US court eventually ruled six to one to deny Demesme’s appeal.

Legal Cheek wonders if the judges would have reached the same decision had Demesme’s speech been recorded as “just give me a lawyer, dog”.