The Erosion Of Miranda Rights

Anybody who has watched any TV cop dramas is familiar with Miranda rights.

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 speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

Suspects in the future, however,  will likely hear a markedly different version of the Miranda rights. This is the result of a slow chipping away at these rights, to the extent that some current versions leave much room for ambiguity.

Recently, the Supreme Court made several revisions to the Miranda warnings.  During the Supreme Court session, the court placed several limits on the rights. The decisions do not change the wording of the Miranda Rights as most Americans know them. However, the Supreme Court did approve of one version of the Miranda Rights in the state of Florida.

The problem that many criminal defense lawyers have with this version is that the wording does not inform suspects that they have a right to have a lawyer present when they’re being questioned by police. The Miranda warning that is currently being used in some parts of Florida goes like this:

You have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of our questions. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for you without cost and before any questioning. You have the right to use any of these rights at any time you want during this interview.

Criminal defense lawyers have argued that this version of the warning leaves room for much ambiguity, and does not make it clear to the suspect that he can have a lawyer present during his questioning. However, the court ruled that this version contains all the information a suspect needs.

There are other changes too. A suspect’s request for an attorney is now only valid for 14 days after he’s released from police custody. Two weeks after he is released from custody, police can question a suspect without having to repeat his Miranda rights.

The last change is the strangest of all. For the first time now, a suspect must inform the police that he or she intends to remain silent. In other words, your right to remain silent is only valid if you actually inform the police that you intend to remain silent.

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