Supreme Court expands limits on Miranda rights

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The United States Supreme Court now says suspects must tell police explicitly they want to be silent to invoke their Miranda protection during interrogations.

What are Miranda Rights?
Police generally read these rights to individuals about to be questioned in custody. "You have the right to remain silent. If you give up 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 desire an attorney and cannot afford one, an attorney will be obtained for you before police questioning."

The Miranda rule was developed to protect the individual's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The Miranda warning ensures that people in custody realize they do not have to talk to the police and that they have the right to the presence of an attorney.
--American Bar Association

A right to remain silent and a right to a lawyer are the first of the Miranda rights warnings read to suspects during arrests.

Law enforcement and prosecutors welcome the ruling, though criminal defense attorneys argue it gives police too much power.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned that the decision "turns Miranda upside down."

We've all seen countless examples on TV where a police officer gives a Miranda warning and says, "You have the right to remain silent."


Behind those famous seven words is an important legal concept: that a person has certain constitutional rights in their interactions with police.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a new ruling, which could alter the balance in real life, not just on TV.

Executive Director of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Kent Hart said, "It is definitely not good for suspects."

"We don't want to be finding excuses to throw out good confessions, good admissions," said Chief Deputy Attorney General Kirk Torgensen.

But with the new ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court says suspects must tell police they are going to remain silent to stop an interrogation, just as they must tell police that they want a lawyer.

Miranda v. Arizona
The concept of "Miranda rights" came about following the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision, which found that the Fifth Amendment and Sixth Amendment rights of Ernesto Arturo Miranda had been violated during his arrest and trial for rape and kidnapping. In 1963, he was brought in for question and confessed to the crime. He was not told he did not have to speak or have a lawyer present.

"This case today seems to be going down that path of allowing the police more leeway," Hart said. "So the risk would be, as Justice Sotomayor pointed out, you can just extend out this interrogation as long as they're not invoking their right and just wear them down."

But Torgensen doesn't see it that way. He says the ruling clarifies an ambiguous situation.

"Once they have that ability to understand their constitutional rights, I think that it's clearly in society's best interests to keep truly voluntary and truthful statements in evidence," he said.

This marks the third time this session that the Supreme Court has placed limits on Miranda rights, which originally come from a 1966 court decision.


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John Daley


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