You Have the Right to…Speak up?
U.S. Supreme Court dials back on Miranda Rights
Miranda rights are warnings that are required to be given by police to criminal suspects in police custody before they are interrogated, informing them of their Constitutional rights. Then again, you probably already know this as the Miranda rights have become conventional legal jargon since their advent in the landmark 1966 Miranda v. Arizona case. Even children know they have the right to remain silent just from watching television.
But what you might not know is that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has narrowed your Miranda rights. In fact, the Court’s 5-4 opinion in Berghuis v. Thompkins makes it clear that after suspects are read their rights, they must tell police they wish to remain silent for an interrogation to stop. If a suspect doesn’t speak up, police can continue to ask questions.
In Berghuis v. Thompkins, the suspect only made an incriminating statement after three-hours of constant interrogation during which he had largely remained silent. The Court held that unless and until the suspect actually stated that he was relying on the right to remain silent, his subsequent voluntary statements could be used in court and police could continue to interact with him.
Proponents of the Berghuis decision suggest that Miranda had been broadened over the years far beyond what was necessary for its original goal of protecting suspects from being coerced into making confessions. Those in opposition to the decision maintain that being arrested and questioned is itself inherently coercive, and therefore, the burden to speak up should not be placed on the citizen. There is also a growing concern that the decision will lead to Miranda rights being narrowed even further.
Nevertheless, the implication of this decision is clear. If you are ever confronted or questioned by the police, you must speak up to exercise your Constitutional right to remain silent. Understanding this juxtaposition could prevent a bad situation from getting worse. If and when the time comes that making a statement is in your best interest, you will have ample time to do so—after consulting with a well-versed Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney at Fairlie & Lippy who will assure that all of your rights are protected. Read more about Miranda Rights.