Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Supreme Court Makes Rules Regarding Miranda Rights

In an article by Jesse J. Holland for The Huffington Post, information regarding a recent Supreme Court ruling was discussed, explaining the changes that are about to take place surround one's Miranda Rights.
A right to remain silent and a right to a lawyer are the first of the Miranda rights warnings, which police recite to suspects during arrests and interrogations. But the justices said in a 5-4 decision that 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.

The ruling comes in a case where a suspect, Van Chester Thompkins, remained mostly silent for a three-hour police interrogation before implicating himself in a Jan. 10, 2000, murder in Southfield, Mich. He appealed his conviction, saying that he invoked his Miranda right to remain silent by remaining silent.

But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the decision for the court's conservatives, said that wasn't enough.

"Thompkins did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk to police," Kennedy said. "Had he made either of these simple, unambiguous statements, he would have invoked his 'right to cut off questioning.' Here he did neither, so he did not invoke his right to remain silent."
I disagree with this assertion that one only has the right when one explicitly states that they want to exercise their right.  Imagine if you didn't have the freedom of speech unless you added a disclaimer to everything you said that you were exercising your right - what kind of would arise should you forget?


  1. I don't know. I find myself siding with the decision. If they took it literally as "remaining silent" than how do you quantify the time limit? What if they are just thinking about whether they should remain silent or cooperate? Is it immediately after they are told their rights? Is it 1 minute after or 1 hour after? Without this disclaimer it can be left arbitrarily to the subjective view of the cops, and as seen in this case that is what happened. The interpreted it as more than 3 hours where other cops could have interpreted as less than 3 minutes?

    Considering the importance of the end results, the impact on a case/people, than this very important right should not be left ambiguous.

  2. Considering the ambiguity, I wonder if individuals detained must be notified that they must specify if they choose to enact their rights...

    I guess that was an underlying point I was trying to make...

    "You have the right to remain silent. Before you remain silent, you must indicate just how silent you choose to be..."


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