Pennsylvania v. Bland (majority)Annotate this Case
This appeal centered on the nature of a valid invocation of the Miranda-based right to counsel, specifically, in terms of whether the right must be asserted in close temporal proximity to custodial interrogation or may be effectively invoked remotely from such questioning. Appellee Dennis Bland, Jr. allegedly shot and killed Keron Remberan in Philadelphia, then fled to his mother’s house in Florida. After learning of Appellee’s whereabouts, police obtained an arrest warrant and notified Florida law enforcement. Federal authorities in Florida detained Appellee, who was seventeen years old at the time, and he was placed in a juvenile facility to await extradition to Pennsylvania. The day after Appellee’s arrest, his father contacted the Defender Association of Philadelphia and apprised an attorney of his son’s circumstances. The lawyer sent a form letter via facsimile to Florida counsel representing Appellee in connection with the extradition proceedings, asking that Appellee sign and return the document. The letter reflected a very clear putative invocation of the Miranda-based right to counsel. Six days after Appellee had signed the form sent by the Defender Association while he was in Florida, a detective provided him with Miranda warnings. During ensuing questioning, Appellee ultimately confessed to perpetration of the killing, and, after later consultation with his father, he also provided a written confession. Appellee was charged with murder, firearms violations, and several related offenses, and the Defender Association was formally appointed as counsel. Appellee filed a pre-trial motion to suppress his written statement, claiming that police violated his rights under Miranda, as well as under Article 1, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Supreme Court held that, to require a suspension of questioning by law enforcement officials on pain of an exclusionary remedy, an invocation of the Miranda-based right to counsel must be made upon or after actual or imminent commencement of in-custody interrogation.