Tuesday, May 26, 2009

There Goes a Miranda Right

Ironic isn’t it, that on the day President Barack Obama nominates Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter on the US Supreme Court, a move to preserve a liberal presence on the high bench, The Supremes today handed down another 5-4 decision that takes away another of your rights.

The right to the presence of an attorney before questioning.

The case they heard was Montejo vs. Louisiana a case that overturned a long-standing (since 1986) ruling – in Michigan v. Jackson. The decision isn’t posted at their website yet, so we have to rely on what information that the Houston Chronicle

In Michigan v. Jackson the court ruled that the police may not interrogate a suspect if the person either has a lawyer or requests a lawyer.

In reading the opinion, Justice Antonin “I Stole the Presidency from Gore” Scalia said of the previous ruling, that “it was poorly reasoned, has created no significant reliance interests and (as we have described) is ultimately unworkable.”

Besides, reasoned Scalia, we have Miranda.

“Miranda”is from a landmark 1966 (I think) ruling from which the “Miranda Warning” statement came. In case no one has ever read those rights to you from that pocket-sized card, here is what it says on the card that the police are supposed to read to you when they place you under arrest:

“You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Do you understand?
Anything you do or say may be used against you in a court of law. Do you understand?
You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. Do you understand?
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. Do you understand?”

“If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Do you understand?
Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?”

Scalia said this:

“Because of the protections created by this court in Miranda and related cases, there is little if any chance that a defendant will be badgered into waiving his right to have counsel present during interrogation.”

But if you look at the warning again, it says that the accused has the RIGHT to consult an attorney before questioning.

That’s not true anymore, is it?

Because if you look at the second paragraph of the Miranda Warning, that whole thing is all about badgering the accused to talk.

All about it.

No, in my humble opinion all this does is convince the accused that there is no upside to talking to the police without a lawyer being present.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"the police are supposed to read to you when they place you under arrest"

This really isn't so. The 'Miranda' warning is only required when the police intend to conduce a "custodial interrogation". If the police aren't going to 'interrogate' you, then they don't need to read you your Miranda rights. And if you are not "in custody" they don't need to read you those rights. And many people are unpleasantly surprised to find out just how much 'wiggle room' this gives the police. (for example, believe it or not you are not "in custody" while undergoing a DWI investigation, doing Field Sobriety Tests, etc. But just try and walk away....).