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Happy golden anniversary to Miranda v. Arizona!

The May issue of NACDL’s CHAMPION magazine  devotes its edition to Miranda.

Some interesting statistics:

  • The decision has been cited over 56,000 times in the past half-century
  • Between 78 to 96% of suspects waive their Miranda rights after being advised by investigators
  • More than 5 000 articles in legal publications focus on Miranda
  • The Innocence Project has tallied 336 DNA-based exonerations. Some  88 of these cases contain false admissions/confessions!

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Miranda warnings are often misunderstood by suspects.  Warnings may be clouded by legalese or employ words which confuse the subject.

Often, the validity of an Article 31 military warning may involve a service member with English as a second language.   if so, here are some questions on the effectiveness of Miranda warnings:

  • Do arrestees obtain and recognize the correct information
  • Do they understand the words and the sentences of the warning
  • Can they restate the information accurately in their own words
  • Do they remember the information even after a short delay
  • Do they make intelligent waivers with consideration of long-term consequences

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 Many core misconceptions  can compromise a knowing waiver under Miranda.  Some common errors:

  • Silence: if I don’t answer the questions, my silence will be used as evidence of my guilt
  • Off the record: if I say something informally during a break or ‘off the record,’ it cannot be used  later to incriminate me
  • Right to counsel: I believe that the police are legally allowed to eavesdrop on my interactions with my attorney.  So  I have no reason to request counsel.  And even if I get a court-appointed attorney, he/she works for the government and not for me
  • No going back: If I start talking with law enforcement, there’s no turning back or retracting my waiver under  

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Abuses of Miranda rights are routinely overlooked by defense counsel .  For example, research indicates that 31% of pretrial accused presume that their silence equates to self-incrimination.

And nearly 1/3 of offenders falsely believe the police questioning can continue until their requested attorney actually arrives.

Finally, defenders are cautioned that police officers are being taught slippery new techniques for “questioning outside of Miranda.”  Essentially,  officers will rapidly read Miranda rights to an individual, then engage in low-key questioning to pave over the fact that they made no effort to obtain a specific, clear waiver.  Another technique is to give a “quickie” warning without pausing to see if the suspect understands what has been said.

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