What Do Air Bud, a Comma, and a Police Interrogation Have in Common?

Life often imitates art. Air Bud is a movie about a dog that learns how to play basketball. Air Bud: Golden Receiver is about a dog that learns how to play football. Air Bud: World Pup is about a dog that learns how to play soccer. Apparently, a Court in Louisiana has decided that there needs to be an Air Bud: Legal Beagle that is about a dog who learns how to be a lawyer. This proposed movie, unfortunately, would be based on a real-life court ruling and would tell a cautionary tale about how hard it is for judges to understand slang, the importance of a comma, the low regard for legal professions (especially criminal defense lawyers) and the continued erosion of a founding American Constitutional right.

Everyone has the right to have an attorney present before and during government custodial questioning. All you have to do is tell your interrogators that you’d like a lawyer and they’re supposed to stop all questioning until a lawyer is present.

That’s great in theory, but Police Officers, Prosecutors, and seemingly now, the State of Louisiana, don’t like it when Suspects know their rights, and they like it even less when suspects assert their powerful Constitutional rights. Heaven forbid the government’s suspicions are incorrect, and they happen to be detaining and interrogating an innocent person!

The most recent threat to this 6th Amendment right to counsel came in the form of a case from Louisiana, where law enforcement was detaining a suspect and interrogating him. You can read about it here, but this is the internet…. Why read an article when memes can explain it to you?

Essentially, the suspect told law enforcement something along the lines of this:

For those people who don’t understand that this phrase was intended to convey “Hello Sir, I would like a Lawyer,” please note the comma is separating “Lawyer” from the common colloquial term “dawg.” Also, (I can’t believe that the State of Louisiana needs me to supply a definition, but…) UrbanDictionary.com defines “Dawg” as “a word to be used in place of a name, or other personal noun or pronoun to be used in place of a name.”

Apparently, though, the suspect’s interrogators had more in common with cats (and possessed the inability to infer commas based on pauses in speech) and thought:

Since Air Bud: Legal Beagle is not a real thing (yet!), they kept interrogating him, and the suspect was rightfully irked and confused!

Upon seeing this blatant violation of his client’s Constitutional right to have a lawyer present during custodial interrogations, the suspect’s lawyer thought:

And filed a Motion to Suppress the suspect’s statements.

You see, Motions to Suppress are a tool that defense attorneys use to punish law enforcement officers who do not “play by the book.” Based on the “Exclusionary Rule” which prohibits the use of illegally obtained evidence in a criminal trial. When a cop knows you want a lawyer and questions you anyway, your statements are “illegally obtained evidence” because, in America, custodial interrogations are not supposed to look like this:

If you ask for a lawyer, all questions are supposed to stop until the room looks more like this:

But, unfortunately, the Louisiana Court essentially decided:

And since this guy doesn’t exist:

The Court decided that the suspect’s Constitutional Right to Counsel was not violated and held that the suspect’s statements were not “illegally obtained evidence.” Despite the fact that seemingly everyone knew what the suspect meant precisely, the Motion to Suppress was denied, and the Suspect’s statements were allowed to be used against him.

Flabbergasted, criminal defense lawyers everywhere collectively screamed:

So, just remember, the people who will be parsing your language to determine if you adequately invoked your constitutional rights probably think more like this:

Until law schools start admitting canines, or judges start being more in touch with how litigants speak in the real world, be very clear when requesting an attorney.

Next time, we’ll talk about why:

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