On this Day:
On June 12, 1966 the US Supreme Court’s Miranda decision is released; as a result, all suspects must be informed of their right to remain silent.
Right to silence
The right to silence is a legal principle which guarantees any individual the right to refuse to answer questions from law enforcement officers or court officials. It is a legal right recognized, explicitly or by convention, in many of the world’s legal systems.
The right covers a number of issues centered on the right of the accused or the defendant to refuse to comment or provide an answer when questioned, either prior to or during legal proceedings in a court of law. This can be the right to avoid self-incrimination or the right to remain silent when questioned. The right may include the provision that adverse inferences cannot be made by the judge or jury regarding the refusal by a defendant to answer questions before or during a trial, hearing or any other legal proceeding. This right constitutes only a small part of the defendant’s rights as a whole.
The origin of the right to silence is attributed to Sir Edward Coke’s challenge to the ecclesiastical courts and their ex officio oath. In the late 17th century, it became established in the law of England as a reaction to the excesses of the royal inquisitions in these courts. In the United States, informing suspects of their right to remain silent and of the consequences for giving up that right forms a key part of the Miranda warning.
In the United States, the Miranda warning is a type of notification customarily given by police to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial interrogation) advising them of their right to silence and, in effect, protection from self-incrimination; that is, their right to refuse to answer questions or provide information to law enforcement or other officials. These rights are often referred to as Miranda rights. The purpose of such notification is to preserve the admissibility of their statements made during custodial interrogation in later criminal proceedings.
The language used in a Miranda warning is derived from the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona. The specific language used in the warning varies between jurisdictions, but the warning is deemed adequate as long as the defendant’s rights are properly disclosed such that any waiver of those rights by the defendant is knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. For example, the warning may be phrased as follows:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions. You have the right to have a lawyer with you during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer questions now without a lawyer present, you have the right to stop answering at any time.
The Miranda warning is part of a preventive criminal procedure rule that law enforcement are required to administer to protect an individual who is in custody and subject to direct questioning or its functional equivalent from a violation of their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held that the admission of an elicited incriminating statement by a suspect not informed of these rights violates the Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, through the incorporation of these rights into state law. Thus, if law enforcement officials decline to offer a Miranda warning to an individual in their custody, they may interrogate that person and act upon the knowledge gained, but may not use that person’s statements as evidence against them in a criminal trial.
Origin and development of Miranda rights
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol agent reading the Miranda rights to a suspect
The concept of “Miranda rights” was enshrined in U.S. law following the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision, which found that the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of Ernesto Arturo Miranda had been violated during his arrest and trial for armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape of a young woman.
Miranda was subsequently retried and convicted, based primarily on his estranged ex-partner, who had been tracked down by the original arresting officer via Miranda’s own parents, suddenly claiming that Miranda had confessed to her when she had visited him in jail. Miranda’s lawyer later confessed that he ‘goofed’ the case by focusing too much on the constitutional issues (and losing sight of the jury and guilt or innocence).
The circumstances triggering the Miranda safeguards, i.e. Miranda rights, are “custody” and “interrogation”. Custody means formal arrest or the deprivation of freedom to an extent associated with formal arrest. Interrogation means explicit questioning or actions that are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response. The Supreme Court did not specify the exact wording to use when informing a suspect of their rights. However, the Court did create a set of guidelines that must be followed. The ruling states:
…The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he/she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he/she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he/she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him/her.
In Berkemer v. McCarty (1984), the Supreme Court decided that a person subjected to custodial interrogation is entitled to the benefit of the procedural safeguards enunciated in Miranda, regardless of the nature or severity of the offense of which they are suspected or for which they were arrested.
As a result, American English developed the verb Mirandize, meaning “read the Miranda rights to” a suspect (when the suspect is arrested).
Notably, the Miranda rights need not be read in any particular order, and they need not precisely match the language of the Miranda case as long as they are adequately and fully conveyed (California v. Prysock, 453 U.S. 355 (1981)).
In Berghuis v. Thompkins (2010), the Supreme Court held that unless a suspect expressly states that they are invoking this right, subsequent voluntary statements made to an officer can be used against them in court, and police can continue to interact with (or question) the alleged criminal.
Warnings of a right to remain silent are given in approximately 108 nations around the world. (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
A fisherman took his boat far out to sea. He hooked a huge fish, and fought it for hours.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t strapped into his seat and he was yanked overboard, and began to drown. Suddenly, he was rescued and brought back to his boat by a pair of dolphins.
Gratefully, the fisherman thanked them.
They replied, “You’re welcome!”
Aghast, the fisherman said, “You can talk! This is amazing! Is there anything I can do to repay you for saving my life?”
“Yes, indeed,” they confirmed. “We are magical dolphins. We are also immortal, as long as we consume a rare breed of seagull chick once every 500 years. As it so happens, our time of need is near. We ask that you travel to the Island of Gulls and get a chick for each of us from the gulls that live there. There is but one tree on the island, and the nests are in that tree.”
The man followed the dolphins in his boat to the island. He dropped anchor and waded ashore. He could see the tree from the beach, and began his trek through the underbrush toward it.
He froze in his tracks, however, when he saw the base of the tree was guarded by huge lions! Blessedly, they were fast asleep. Being a man of his word, the fisherman tiptoed bravely around the lions and climbed the tree. He snatched two of the odd, blue-colored chicks and stuffed one into each coat pocket. He then climbed down, crept back past the lions, fought his way back through the bushes, and was just within sight of his boat… when he was stopped by a policeman in full uniform.
“You’re under arrest, sir. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will…“
“Hold up, officer!” the man interjected, “What are the charges? What crime could I possibly have committed?”
“Sir,” the officer replied, reading his clipboard, “Uou are under arrest for transporting young gulls across sedate lions for immortal porpoises.”
Second, a Song:
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical depiction of American life, epitomized by the Simpson family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield and parodies American culture and society, television, and the human condition.
The family was conceived by Groening shortly before a solicitation for a series of animated shorts with producer James L. Brooks. He created a dysfunctional family and named the characters after his own family members, substituting Bart for his own name; he thought Simpson was a funny name in that it sounded similar to “simpleton”. The shorts became a part of The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. After three seasons, the sketch was developed into a half-hour prime time show and became Fox’s first series to land in the Top 30 ratings in a season (1989–1990).
Since its debut on December 17, 1989, 728 episodes of the show have been broadcast. It is the longest-running American animated series, longest-running American sitcom, and the longest-running American scripted primetime television series, both in terms of seasons and number of episodes. A feature-length film, The Simpsons Movie, was released in theaters worldwide on July 27, 2007, and grossed over $527 million, with a sequel in development as of 2018. The series has also spawned numerous comic book series, video games, books, and other related media, as well as a billion-dollar merchandising industry. The Simpsons is a joint production by Gracie Films and 20th Television. On March 3, 2021, the series was announced to have been renewed for seasons 33 and 34, which were later confirmed to have 22 episodes each, increasing the episode count from 706 to 750. Its thirty-third season premiered on September 26, 2021.
The Simpsons received acclaim throughout its early seasons in the 1990s, which are generally considered its “golden age”. Since then, it has been criticized for a perceived decline in quality. Time named it the 20th century’s best television series, and Erik Adams of The A.V. Club named it “television’s crowning achievement regardless of format”. On January 14, 2000, the Simpson family was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It has won dozens of awards since it debuted as a series, including 34 Primetime Emmy Awards, 34 Annie Awards, and 2 Peabody Awards. Homer’s exclamatory catchphrase of “D’oh!” has been adopted into the English language, while The Simpsons has influenced many other later adult-oriented animated sitcom television series (per Wikipedia).
Courtesy of The Simpsons and YouTube.com, here is a clip from the Simpsons on “Homer gets Arrested”. We hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” – Potter Stewart
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky