The Landmark 1966 decision, Miranda v. Arizona, ensured that suspects were aware of their now famously worded constitutional rights. Cops could no longer use coercive tactics or rely on the ignorance of a suspect in attempting to secure a confession. In the last several decades, however, the Miranda ruling has been chipped away so that it carries little of the weight it once carried.
Monday, the United States Supreme Court heard another case regarding Miranda which stems from Florida. The case involves Kevin Dwayne Powell who was convicted of possession of an illegal firearm. Before his confession, Powell signed a Miranda statement that included the statements “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.”
At question is whether it was made clear to Powell that he had the right to an attorney during the interview. The statement above says that Powell had the right to an attorney before answering our questions which suggests that Powell had no choice but to talk to police.
The Florida Supreme Court overturned the decision on the basis that Powell’s rights were not made clear. Yesterday, the appeal was heard before the USSC. Justice Breyer appeared to side with the Florida Supreme Court in asking, “Where does it say in this warning, you have the right to have the lawyer with you during the interrogation?” Justice Breyer also pointed out that this was not a minor topic in Miranda but rather was discussed over eight paragraphs.
To the shock of no one, Justice Scalia disagreed. In his continued effort to abolish the criminal justice system, Justice Scalia stated that it was fantastical to believe that Powell would not have confessed if only he knew that he had the right to an attorney during questioning.
I’m consistently shocked by how often Miranda challenges come up. Miranda laws have been around longer than most of today’s cops have been on the beat, so it startles me that cops fail to properly give the warnings.
I mentioned above that the past several decades have chipped away at the efficacy of Miranda… please come back to see Part II of this post as I discuss my thoughts on the state of Miranda v. Arizona.