The defendant in this case was arrested after attempting to bring 10 kilograms of meth into the United States in El Paso.  HSI Special Agents verbally provided Miranda warnings to the defendant and then sought his signature on a written Miranda form. They also informed the defendant that they were video taping the entire interrogation.  They asked him: “You understand your rights? And you will, we will be talking to you. We have a few questions for you. Is that ok? Is that ok with you?” to which he responded “Yes, I am ok.”  After the defendant finished reading the form, he was asked if he understood his rights. In response, he asked: “Yes, that I may have an attorney, it says?” The agent responded “Yes, you may have an attorney, but right now is when we can speak with you.” Alvarado-Palacio responded, “Ah, ok.” Alvarado-Palacio subsequently gave the agents a confession admitting that he knew the drugs were in the car, even though he did not know what kind of drugs.

Having been charged with various Title 21 drug offenses, the defendant sought to have his confession suppressed arguing the agents misrepresented his right to an attorney during the exchange.

The Fifth Circuit affirmed the District Court denial of the motion to suppress the confession. The court noted that law enforcement must inform a suspect of his Miranda rights, but a suspect can waive those rights if the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently. So they had to consider both the voluntariness inquiry and the knowing inquiry. Id. Alvarado-Palacio argues that the waiver of his Miranda rights was invalid because the agents misrepresented his right to counsel. The court noted that nothing from the record indicated that Alvarado-Palacio did not make a free and deliberate choice to waive his right to counsel. Therefore, the appeal hinged on the question of whether there was a knowing waiver.  The court then held that the part of het interview where the agent said “Yes, you may have an attorney, but right now is when we can speak with you” could not be analyzed “in a vacuum” and in light of the other representations (all captured on video) the defendant’s waiver was knowing.

To read or download the full decision CLICK HERE