Monday, March 01, 2010

Miranda Warnings Changed By US Supreme Court Last Week - And It's Not Good News

The United States Supreme Court released two opinions last week that directly impact what we've all understood regarding Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

Now, according to the Supreme Court, confessions that wouldn't be admitted at trial in the past WILL BE allowed as evidence at trial -- despite the reality that law enforcement interviewed individuals and got those confessions in ways that weren't considered legal until last week.

Florida v. Powell

First came
Florida v. Powell, 08-1175 ___ U.S. ___ (2010). Here, the Court found that even though Florida's Miranda Warning does not state to the individual clearly and directly that he or she has a right to have a lawyer present when they are being questioned by police, the Florida warning is okay.

Guess the Court is depending upon all those TV shows to let everyone know that when the cops start to ask you questions, you have a constitutional right to an attorney.

Maryland v. Shatzer

Then, two days later, came
Maryland v. Shatzer, 08-680, ___ U.S. ___ (2010). Here, the "Edwards v. Arizona rule" gets whammied. That rule was clear: when an individual invoked his Miranda rights ("get me a lawyer!") then that's it. Even if the man or woman says something later that amounts to a "nevermind" it didn't matter. The cops couldn't question any further and it be okay under the law.

Now, it's a big huge mess. The Supreme Court tells us that the Edwards v. Arizona rule shouldn't be an "eternal" bar to police questioning someone. Now, if there's a 14 day long "break in custody" between the police trying to question the individual, then a confession after that two week interval is going to be just fine. What??? Really???

"That provides plenty of time for the suspect to get re-acclimated to his normal life ... and to shake off any residual coercive effect of his prior custody," opines Justice Scalia in the decision.

What about if the individual is spending those two weeks behind bars? Doesn't matter, apparently: Shatzer was in prison during the "break in custody" and the Supreme Court didn't think that was a big deal.

Wonder how many confessions we'll see in the future that aren't dated at least 14 days after the individual was initially questioned by the police?