Criminal Law Process
BY Shulamit Shvartsman for Lawyers.comsm
In June 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled that a criminal suspect must explicitly and "unambiguously" tell police he wants to remain silent. Until he does so, police may continue to question and interrogate him. The ruling is inline with prior Court decisions requiring criminal suspects to clearly and unambiguously tell police they want a lawyer.
Van Chester Thompkins' silence during the three-hour interrogation by police officers didn't raise or invoke his right to remain silent. He never said he wanted to remain silent or that he didn't want to talk to the officers. So, the incriminating statement he made toward the end of the interrogation could be used against him in his murder trial.
It should be noted that in a brief she filed on behalf of the US Government, new Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan sided with the police officers in the case. The newest member of the Court, Justice Sotomayor, didn't agree with the Court's decision and sided with Thompkins.
This isn't the first time the Court has dealt with Miranda in 2010:
- In Florida v. Powell, the Court ruled that police officers didn't have to use any specific or precise wording when advising a suspect of his right to an attorney
- In Maryland v. Shatzer, the Court ruled that a suspect who asserts his right to remain silent can be questioned again by police after 14 days. If the suspect makes incriminating statements, they may be used against him in court
The US Supreme Court will soon be hearing a case that may change one of the most important legal principals in criminal law - your Miranda rights. The case decides whether to expand the scope to situations where police question suspects who claim they understand their Miranda rights but don't immediately use them.
What Are Miranda Rights?
The Miranda Rights date back to 1966 when the US Supreme Court decided the historic case of Miranda v. Arizona. The Court decided that whenever a person is taken into police custody, he must be told of his Fifth Amendment rights before the police can question him.
The Fifth Amendment rights protect you from making any incriminating statements against yourself. As a result of Miranda, anyone in police custody must be told four things before being questioned:
- You have the right to remain silent
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law
- You have the right to an attorney
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you
What If the Police Fail to Advise Me of My Miranda Rights?
If police officers question you in custody without first telling you of your Miranda rights, any statement or confession you make will be determined to be involuntary and can't be used against you in court. Also, any evidence discovered as a result of that confession will likely be thrown out of the case.