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Archive for the ‘Miranda Rights’ Category

You have the right to remain silent … what else?

Monday, February 4th, 2008

You’ve probably seen enough scripted crime drama on television to know what Miranda Rights sound like. You know that you have the right to remain silent, and that anything you say can be used against you in court. But what else do Miranda Rights entail?

Did you know that you always have the right to have a lawyer present during questioning? Did you know that if you do not have the means to afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Police often question individuals without lawyers present. But you are not required to answer any of their questions under this right.

In boarder states such as Texas, New Mexico and California, suspects who are not legal citizens of America are read an additional right: If you are not a United States Citizen, you may contact your country’s consulate prior to any questioning.
Miranda Rights were established by the 1966 United States Supreme Court decision regarding Miranda vs. Arizona as a way of protecting criminal suspects from incriminating themselves and to avoid coercion of a confession. As a result, the verb Mirandize was established. To Mirandize means to read a suspect his or her Miranda Rights.

Though the Supreme Court did not specifically state how the wording of the Miranda Rights should be used when arresting a suspect, a set of guidelines was created. These guidelines directly state that the person in custody must be always informed that he or she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says must be used against that person in court be for he or she is interrogated. The person in question must also be informed that he or she has the right to speak with a lawyer and to have a lawyer at hand during questioning. Also, if he or she is destitute, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him or her.

Miranda Rights do not have to be read in any particular order as long as they are adequately explained in detail. The courts have established a ruling that the rights must be “meaningful,” meaning that the suspect in question fully understands his or her rights. California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Pennsylvania also add the following questions: Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me? A “yes” answer to both of these questions is considered a waiver. A “no” invokes the rights. A suspect’s silence is not considered a waiver because there could be a language barrier that prevents the suspect from comprehending his or her Miranda Rights.

Essentially, Miranda Rights are considered an extension of the Fifth Amendment, which protects against coercive interrogations. If you are ever arrested or brought in for questioning by the police, remember your Miranda Rights. They exist to protect you, innocent or otherwise. And you have the right to enforce them.

I’ve never actually been read my Miranda Rights…what are they?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Upon arrest with intent for interrogation, police in the United States are required to read a suspect their Miranda Rights so that they understand what they are allowed to do and how their subsequent actions might affect them. The Miranda Rights are composed of four major factors that each suspect is to be made aware of before being brought into jail.

The right to remain silent

This is the right that everyone remembers; in fact the one that started the whole Miranda Rights ball rolling in the first place back in 1963. Suspects placed under arrest must be made aware of the fact that if they say anything after being placed in handcuffs it can be used against them when the case comes to court. It sounds like a simple thing, but in 1963 when Ernesto Miranda confessed to kidnapping and rape upon his arrest his conviction was overthrown when he claimed he didn’t know he was allowed to keep quiet. The right not to incriminate yourself is a very useful one to know if you are ever placed under arrest.

You have the right to an attorney

Legal aide is always advisable following arrest, and if you do not have a lawyer then one can be provided for you by the state. If you are unsure whether legal representation is needed, you should be thinking about all the things you don’t understand about the legal system and how being without that information might easily hurt your chances in court. A lawyer will be able to tell you things you didn’t even know you should be considering, and also they will be able to help you make good decisions about the things you say to the police and investigators.

If you are not a United States citizen you may contact your consulate prior to questioning

For any people not actually permanently residing within the United States, arrest can be even more stressful than it would be with an American citizen. To fully understand your rights within the US legal system as a foreigner it is best that you speak with your country’s representatives and perhaps find out if you can have the trial set at home or if you can at least serve time at home if it comes to that.

With these rights in mind do you wish to speak to me?

A suspect must make it clear whether he or she has understood the Miranda Rights, and in some places a clear ‘yes’ must be heard before moving forward with the arrest. Arresting officers have had evidence thrown out of court because they failed to ensure the suspect understood their rights, and also for failing to deliver the Rights in a language the suspect could understand.

Strange beginnings for the Miranda Rights

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

In 1963 someone named Ernesto Miranda was convicted of kidnapping and rape, prosecutors only using his confession as evidence and presenting no other information to the court. Miranda had confessed to his crimes upon arrest and it was this information that proved to be the only bit of evidence needed to convict him. The problem was that upon review, the man realised that he hadn’t actually been required to say anything at all upon arrest; in fact that he might have stayed silent and remained free and out of jail. His lawyer explained that his legal rights were different than he had expected and once Miranda realised this, he was determined to bring the misunderstanding to light. He knew that if he put pressure on the right people, with the help of his lawyer he could perhaps change the outcome of his conviction.

It seemed the problem with Miranda’s arrest was that he believed upon arrest he was required to plead innocent or guilty – he confessed that he was guilty and thought the legal process was effectively over. He didn’t understand that in the United States people do not have to make any kind of plea until actually presented with the question in court, and this mistake would change the way American cops would conduct their arrests entirely in the following years. Miranda felt that he should lobby to have these rights made known to any person being arrested so that they would know exactly what was expected of them and what they need not do. This was by no means a charitable act on his part; Miranda was simply looking to have his own conviction overturned.

Subsequent to his first conviction, Miranda fought to have the confession ruled out because of his initial ignorance to the fact that he didn’t need to incriminate himself. The conviction was actually thrown out of court and he found himself facing another trial without the confession as evidence. Fortunately the prosecutors brought in enough other evidence to reconvict him and in the end Miranda served eleven years in jail for his crimes. Because of the fuss he made over his own willingness to confess, police nationwide are all required to state that an individual need not say anything to incriminate themselves as they are being arrested. This is known as being read your Miranda Rights.

Ironically, when Ernesto Miranda was killed years later in a knife fight, his killer was read his Miranda Rights before being brought into jail. Since the 1960’s the issue of Miranda Rights has been revisited time and again since many people feel it is unnecessary to tell people they don’t have to say anything that will hurt their chances in court; in fact it seems common sense to most and a waste of time to many police officers. Nevertheless, in 2000 the Supreme Court maintained that reading of the Miranda Rights during arrest was necessary and would lead to fewer overturned court cases due to the professed ignorance of a suspect.

How have Miranda Rights progressed over the years?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Initially, Miranda Rights were established in the United States following the trial of one Ernesto Miranda in 1963 – Miranda confessed to rape and kidnapping and was convicted based on this confession. He later learned that under US law he was actually not required to have spoken to the police upon his arrest, and he claimed that with this knowledge his case might have turned out differently. The court overturned the conviction on this basis and although Miranda was convicted for a second time in 1966 without the confession being used as evidence against him, he forever changed the way police perform arrests pertaining to interrogation. Since then, arresting officers in the United States have been required to read a suspect their aptly-names Miranda Rights during arrest if the suspect is to be brought in for questioning.

Since Miranda Rights, strictly speaking, were created to convey an individual’s rights not to incriminate themselves when under arrest, this is the major focus of the reading today, however other factors have been included in the reading to ensure that American citizens under arrest are aware of other rights given to them.

Specifically, the right to obtain legal aide is mentioned in the current Miranda readings so that anyone who is placed under arrest knows that legal aide is available to them even though they might not be able to afford it. This is very important because without a proper legal representative many people don’t understand their position within the justice system and try to argue their way out of arrests and trials without knowing what damage they are doing to their criminal record or their chances at leaving court without being convicted. A lawyer will know what you should be saying to the police, what information you should give and what questions you should not be answering and because of this it is always advisable to seek legal counsel. Without widespread use of the Miranda Rights people would be unaware of how best to deal with an arrest.

With the influx of immigrants over the past several decades, it also became necessary to add a line for those people who are not actually US citizens: “you may contact your consulate prior to trial”. Along with this it is now necessary for arresting officers to read the Miranda Rights to a suspect in a language that they will understand – failure to do so means that any information gained from the suspect after arrest will be thrown out of court because the suspect did not understand their right not to incriminate themselves.

The biggest milestone for the Miranda Rights was in 2000 when the Supreme Court decided to continue a practice that many consider part of the American culture. Most countries have some version of the reading that takes place during arrest, but none are so well known as the Miranda Rights.

Miranda Rights outside of the U.S.

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

The Miranda Rights were created in the United States, and this is the only country that will use this specific method to inform people under arrest of what their immediate rights are pertaining to arrest. Other countries, however, do have similar readings to be made during arrest so that their citizens are also aware of their immediate rights; while the American version weighs in mostly for the fact that a suspect need not say anything to convict themselves, foreign versions have other focuses.

In Canada, for example, upon arrest a person will be told of the reasons they are being placed under arrest, that they have the right to obtain a lawyer through the state, and that they will have their arrest reviewed in relation to habeus corpus and if it is found to be unlawful, they will be immediately released. The right to legal aid is the key factor here, because in obtaining a lawyer a suspect will then have access to all the information concerning their rights that it is possible to have. Police understand that a suspect can’t be told every single right upon arrest because it is simply unfeasible. Because of this the focus falls to legal aide and if a person cannot afford a lawyer one will be provided for them if they so choose.

In Australia, the caution given upon arrest is most similar to the American Miranda Rights. A suspect is placed under arrest and simply told that they may speak if they wish, but that if they do so whatever they say might be used in evidence. This is a very straightforward method of arrest that takes its cue from the United States, and actually police make no other major points in their arrests aside from this. As Australia uses a form of English Common Law, it is not surprising that the caution used in England and Wales is quite similar.

English and Welsh versions of the Miranda Rights also focus directly on the right of an individual not to incriminate himself. Any version of “you don’t have to speak but if you do whatever you say might be taken down and evidenced against you” will suffice, and this is the main point of the caution. In other European countries, however, much more information is required of the arresting officer while making an arrest.

In France, for example, someone being placed under arrest must be told a large number of rights such as the right to be seen by a doctor, to receive legal aid, to remain silent, to make statements and to answer questions and to inform family members of their whereabouts. The rights must be read in a language that the suspect can understand.

Germany arresting officers need to inform their suspects of their rights to remain silent, speak with a legal aide, divulge information concerning evidence in their favor and they must also be told of the crime with which they are charged.

Every country has taken its own spin on the Miranda Rights but the overwhelming point is, no person should be arrested without understanding exactly what is going on and what is expected of them.