Fare v. Michael C.

PETITIONER: Kenneth F. Fare, Acting Chief Probation Officer
RESPONDENT: Michael C.
LOCATION: Van Nuys Police Station

DOCKET NO.: 78-334
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of California

CITATION: 442 US 707 (1979)
ARGUED: Feb 27, 1979
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1979
GRANTED: Oct 30, 1978

ADVOCATES:
Albert J. Menaster - for respondent
Mark Alan Hart - for petitioner

Facts of the case

The defendant, in this case, was suspected of involvement in the murder committed in Los Angeles, CA. Michael was a minor, had previously been brought to criminal responsibility and at the time of detention was under the supervision of an authorized officer of juvenile affairs. During the detention, he was informed of all his rights as a detainee, including the right to counsel and the ability to remain silent. He expressed a desire to see his officer, but at that moment it was impossible. After receiving the refusal, he began to testify about the murder committed.

During the trial, he changed his point of view and began to assert that his testimony had no legal effect since he testified without the presence of a lawyer, another adult responsible for him or an authorized officer. The court of first instance dismissed these claims on the grounds that the accused refused legal assistance at the time of detention and also did not realize his right to silence. During the revision of the decision by the Supreme Court, the previous one was extended. The court ruled that the provisions of the Fifth Amendment had not really been violated. It was also noted that the officer for the affairs of minors could not act as a minor's lawyer in this case since he has other powers.

Thus, a precedent was created according to which the testimony given by the minor accused is valid in case he was informed of his rights and opportunities, but refused to use them.

Question

Does a juvenile’s request for his probation officer trigger the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination?

Media for Fare v. Michael C.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 27, 1979 in Fare v. Michael C.

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments in Fare against Michael C., beginning at 1 O'clock.

Mr. Hart, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Mark Alan Hart:

Thank you, Your Honor.

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

I am Mark Alan Hart, Deputy Attorney General of the State of California, appearing as counsel for petitioner.

Miranda versus Arizona opened a new chapter in the law of confessions, a chapter that began with precise rules to guide law enforcement in the conducting of a custodial interrogation but has over the years been read with some different and expanded interpretations.

In the case at bar, the California Supreme Court has applied the strict Miranda rules with one addition, that a juvenile who requests his probation officer per se invokes his Fifth Amendment right to be silent, no less than if he asks for an attorney, and that his statements must be suppressed without regard to whether or not they were in fact involuntary.

The operative facts are brief.

On the evening of January 19, 1976, Robert and Helen Yeager were on their way to their home in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles.

Unbeknownst to them, respondent and two of his friends were following in a pickup truck being driven by respondent.

They were looking for someone to rob.

They were looking for money and they had a gun.

The Yeager's arrived home.

Respondent and his friends approached the house, approached Mr. Yeager and during the course of an attempted robbery, one of the other minors shot Mr. Yeager and killed him.

Respondent was apprehended and brought into the police station for questioning.

He was 16 years old at the time of the offense and he had had prior experience with the juvenile court system including serving some time in a youth camp.

He was given the standard Miranda admonition.

He was told that he had a right to remain silent, was told that anything he said could and would be used against him in a court of law, that he had a right to an attorney, that if he could not afford one, one would be appointed for him at -- without his expense and that he had a right to have the attorney present during all stages of interrogation.

He was asked if he understood his rights and if he wanted to talk to the officers.

He indicated that he did and that he might talk but when asked if he would give up his right to an attorney present, he responded, “Can I have my probation officer here?”

To this, the officers replied, “Well, no.

We can't call your probation officer right now, but you have a right to an attorney.”

And, respondent's response was, “Well, how do I know you guys won't -- pull no police officer in and then tell me he's an attorney?”

And, to this, respondent was re-admonished as to the standard Miranda rights.

He was told, “You can have an attorney.

You don't have to talk to us at all if you don't want to.

If you want to talk to us without an attorney present, you can talk to us.

If you don't want to, you don't have to.

That's your right.

Do you understand that right?”