Criminology and Public Policy
The idea of "Miranda rights" was preserved in U.S. law in the wake of 1966 Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision which rule that the violation of the Fifth Amendment and Sixth Amendment rights of Ernesto Arturo Miranda had taken place during his arrest and subsequent trail for rape and kidnapping. Later on, Miranda was retired and convicted.
The Supreme Court did not state the precise wording to use while informing a suspect of their rights. Nevertheless, the Court did come up with a set of guidelines to be followed.
The ruling states:
The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent her or him.(Matthew, 2004)
Consequently, American English developed the verb Mirandize, meaning "read the Miranda warning to" a suspect (when the suspect is arrested). Remarkably, the Miranda rights need not be analyzed in its particular context as they are not supposed to precisely match the language of the Miranda decision, as long as they are adequately and fully conveyed. California v. Prysock, 453 U.S. 355 (1981). (Langley, 2000)
On June 1, 2010, in ruling the Berghuis v. Thompkins case, the United States Supreme Court announced that criminal defendants who have been dictated the Miranda rights (and who have specified they understand them and have not already waived them), are required to unequivocally state during or prior to interrogation that they want to remain silent and not speak to police in order for that protection against self-incrimination to apply.
If they inform police about the incident prior to the invocation of Miranda right to stay silent or at any other time later on amid interrogation or detention the uttered works can always be manipulated against them in case they do not inform the police of their reluctance to talk.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy penned the opinion and was accompanied by Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas and by Chief Justice Roberts. Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Breyer dissented. Elena Kagan, who had pleaded the government's case as Solicitor General of the U.S. and who was appointed to succeed Justice Stevens, supported Kennedy's ruling in her arguments that pointed out that the ruling spelled out for prosecutors and defendants just how the right against self-incrimination applies in such cases.
The critics of Miranda law contends that the requirement the defendant should express his intention of remaining silent further makes it difficult for the defendant to completely stay silent. This opposition must be analyzed in line with the second option given by the majority opinion that allowed that the defendant could opt to remain silent, saying: “Had he wanted to remain silent, he could have said nothing in response or unambiguously invoked his Miranda rights, ending the interrogation." Thus having been "Mirandized" a suspect may avow explicitly the invocation of these rights, or, alternatively, simply remain silent. Absent the former "anything [said] can and will be used against [the defendant] in a court of law."(Hart, 2000)
Miranda cannot be said to be an absolute law since an exception is there in cases of “public safety.”This is a narrow and case-specific exception to the general rule of Miranda which exempts certain unadvised statements (given without Miranda warnings) to be admissible into evidence at trial when they were elicited in circumstances where there is great danger to public safety.(Savage, 2010)
The public safety exception has been taken from New York v. Quarles. It was a case in which the Supreme Court brought into consideration the admissibility of a statement given by a police officer who had made an arrest of a rape suspect accused of carrying a firearm.
The arrest was conducted in a crowded grocery store. When the officer arrested the suspect, he found an empty shoulder holster, handcuffed the suspect, and asked him where the gun was. The suspect nodded in the direction of the gun (which was near some empty cartons) and said, “The gun is over there.” The Supreme Court found that such an unadvised statement was admissible in evidence because "[i]n a kaleidoscopic situation such as the one confronting these officers, where spontaneity rather than adherence to a police manual is necessarily the order of the day, the application of the exception we recognize today should not be made to depend on post hoc findings at a suppression hearing concerning the subjective motivation of the police officer.”(Hart, 2000)
Thus, the jurisprudential rule of Miranda must yield in “a situation where concern for public safety must be paramount to adherence to the literal language of the prophylactic rules enunciated in Miranda.” The rule of Miranda is however not absolute and can be more flexible when it comes the case of public safety. In January 1997, suspected bank robber Charles Dickerson offered a confession to FBI agents on voluntary basis that he had driven the gateway car in latest bank robberies.
At trial, an Alexandria, Virginia federal judge did consider the confession as evidence maintaining that Dickerson had not been advised about the Miranda rights prior to his confession.
Following an appeal submitted by the US government, a US court of appeals maintained that the law that Congress passed in 1968 according to which voluntary confessions could accepted as evident had trumped the Miranda Law. Therefore, this was never upheld by the Supreme Court.
According to Chief Justice Rehnquist Miranda is a constitutional decision of the Supreme Court which cannot be overridden at the behest of Congress.
"We ... hold that Miranda and its progeny in this court govern the admissibility of statements made during custodial interrogation in both state and federal courts," Justice Rehnquist writes in the majority decision.
The Us Justice Department upheld the Miranda decision and hailed it as a milestone to promote and restore public’s confidence in the impartiality of the criminal justice system.
Matthew, Lipmann (2004). MIRANDA LAW: A GUIDE TO THE PRIVILEGE AGAINST SELF-INCRIMINATION, Accessed July, 20, 2011, at http://www.drtomoconnor.com/3020/3020lect05.htm
Savage, D. G. (2010). Supreme Court Backs Off Strict Enforcement of MIranda Rights, Accessed July 20, 2011, at http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jun/02/nation/la-na-court-miranda-20100602.
Langley, R. (n.d.). Miranda: Rights of Silence. About.com. Accessed July 20, 2011, at http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/mirandarights/a/miranda.htm.
Langley, R. (2000). Miranda Rights Upheld by Supreme Court. About.com. Accessed July 20, 2011, at http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/news/aa062600b.htm.
Hart, P. (2000, Sep 28). Law lecturer outlines flaws in most recent ruling on Miranda. University Times, University of Pittsburgh, 33(3). Accessed July 20, 2011, at http://mac10.umc.pitt.edu/u/FMPro?-db=ustory&-lay=a&-format=d.html&storyid=3186&-Find.