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Is ‘What’s Up?’ an unlawful interrogation?

The Maryland Court of Appeals, that state’s highest court, heard an unusual argument on Monday. A public defender ignored the respectful opening, “May it please the court…” and simply asked the judges, “What’s up?”

The nonplussed chief judge corrected him, noting the proper pronunciation is “Whassssup?” a la the popular Budweiser ads from the late 1990s. Cue laughter in the courtroom.

The issue is unlawful interrogation. In 2005 a cop asked a handcuffed suspect outside a house, “What’s up, Maurice?” The suspect, who had not been warned of his rights, said he wasn’t going into the house and he had never been in the house. The cops searched it and found cocaine and a gun. The defendant was convicted of drug conspiracy and sentenced to 20 years.

Was the cop’s statement – “What’s up?” – a common, everyday question or was it the functional equivalent of an interrogation? The trial judge said it was a mere greeting and upheld the conviction, so did the Maryland intermediate court, the Court of Special Appeals.

Maryland’s highest court now gets its turn. Steve Lash, reporting for our sister paper, The Daily Record in Baltimore, has the report.

Posted by Paul Fletcher

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