While this essay on Miranda Rights was not a winner of our Legal Scholarship it was absolutely worth publishing. Below find an honorable mention from our legal scholarship essay competition. Thank you Carlos A. Lievano III of University of Florida Levin College of Law.
This was the second submission we received on Miranda Rights. Brandon Legal Group has a full Criminal Law practice, and appreciates the insights these students bring.
Before reading this essay, it is important to note that this is NOT written or endorsed by Brandon Legal Group, and does not represent legal advice. The following document is a submission for our Legal Scholarship program, and is presented here only as an “honorable mention”.
Miranda Rights: What are they?
Carlos A. Lievano III
“You have the right to remain silent;” a statement issued to individuals under police custody. The Miranda warning, aptly known as Miranda rights, were designed to preserve statements made by a defendant for use in trial. Specifically, after an individual has been Mirandized, they can remain silent, wait for counsel, and be afforded Constitutional Procedural Due Process. However, an individual can choose to speak to police officers, knowing that what has been said can and will be used against them in a court of law. Since Miranda v. Arizona,the rights of the defendant have changed drastically as a result of legislative policy. However, the right was expanded shortly after Miranda but has been subsequently reduced due to changes in politics. First, the war on drugs was the catalyst for the devolution an individual’s rights to silence in order to police inner city drug trafficking and drug related violent crime. Second, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the PATRIOT Act effectively gave officials near absolute power for the sake of national security. Finally, today’s terrorist insurrections marked a continued shift towards reducing the rights of a defendant. Since 1966, Miranda rights have been transformed and effectively neutered of their original intent.
The Court in Miranda applied rights granted by the Constitution and cemented those rights in the form of precedential force. The rights guaranteed, since the seminal case, have dwindled as legislative policy has shifted to favor police officers. Subsequent cases that followed Miranda have for the most part carved out exceptions to the rights granted. Although the meaning of Miranda rights has not changed, the circumstances surrounding an arrest have created exceptions to the right. Miranda’s applications exist but are subject to judicial discretion. Namely, the Public Safety exception carved by the Supreme Court in New York v. Quarles. In Quarles, the Court carved out an exception to Miranda rights. That is, an officer can fail to Mirandize a defendant if Public Safety demands it. Specifically, if a defendant under police custody has knowledge of weapons in the vicinity or is a danger to the officers and those around. Although this exception must be focused on issues regarding the safety of the general public, some courts have taken a broad approach to the application of this exception. Notably, in United States v. Liddell, the court recognized that the Public Safety exception applied to statements made after the defendant was arrested but before he was Mirandized after officers discovered a pistol in the defendant’s vehicle. Both the district and appellate courts held that the statements made were admissible. Public safety has been applied broadly and continues to be applied broadly in cases today. Thus, Miranda’s applications have been modified to suit police procedure.
The use of Miranda rights has remained the same since 1966. However, familiarity with the law, and familiarity with cases following Miranda, have led to use of the Miranda guarantee as a way to coerce defendants into cooperating. As an extern at the Federal Public Defender’s office in Tampa, I frequently dealt with issues surrounding Fourth Amendment and Miranda violations. The most common issue was an officer Mirandizing a defendant after coercing them into cooperating with them. Miranda rights guarantee a defendant can remain silence, has a right to counsel, and must be afforded Procedural Due Process. But, defendants believe if they cooperate and speak to officers – the prosecutors will have leniency towards their sentence. This has not always been the case. Although Miranda rights continue to protect defendants, in its weakened form; it is no longer a guarantee.
It is important to educate the public of the rights afforded to them by the Constitution, statute, and case law. Although the public is aware of Miranda rights due to popular T.V. shows, they are not aware of the force that these rights possess. Although Miranda’s use, application, and meaning have changed over time, it still maintains a Constitutional guarantee that is afforded to defendants. And although the courts have carved out exceptions to Miranda in the name of Public Policy, the right to silence, counsel, and Procedural Due Process remain the cornerstones of American jurisprudence.