State v. Saldierna, 369 N.C. 401 (Dec. 21, 2016)

Reversing the Court of Appeals, the court held that the juvenile defendant’s request to telephone his mother while undergoing custodial questioning by police investigators was not a clear indication of his right to consult with a parent or guardian before proceeding with the questioning. The trial court had found that the defendant was advised of his juvenile rights and after receiving forms setting out these rights, indicated that he understood them; that the juvenile informed the officer that he wished to waive his juvenile rights and signed a form to that effect; and that although the defendant unsuccessfully tried to contact his mother by telephone, he did not at any time indicate that he had changed his mind regarding his desire to speak to the officer, indicate that he revoked his waiver of rights, or make an unambiguous request to have his mother present during questioning. The trial court thus found that the defendant’s rights were not violated under G.S. 7B-2101 or the constitution. The Court of Appeals had concluded that a juvenile need not make a clear and unequivocal request in order to exercise his or her right to have a parent present during questioning. Instead, it concluded that when a juvenile between the ages of 14 and 18 makes an ambiguous statement that potentially pertains to the right to have a parent present, an interviewing officer must clarify the juvenile’s meaning before proceeding with questioning. The court granted the State’s petition for discretionary review. It first held that the defendant’s statement--“Um. Can I call my mom?”--was not a clear and unambiguous invocation of his right to have his parent or guardian present during questioning and thus his rights under G.S. 7B-2101 were not violated. The court remanded for a determination of whether the defendant knowingly, willingly, and understandingly waived his rights. 

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