Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bad Week For Miranda

This week, the Supreme Court issued decisions on two cases involving the famed Miranda warnings that have seriously weakened the warnings.  On Tuesday, the court released its ruling in Florida v. Powell.  the Court upheld the Miranda warnings given to a defendant even though they did not explicitly state that he had the right to have a lawyer present during questioning.  The warnings given to the defendant only informed him that he had a right to a lawyer before questioning.  In the majority opinion, Justice Ginsberg held that the warnings "reasonably conveyed Powell's right to have an attorney present at all times."  And the next day the court issued its decision in Maryland v. Shatzer.  In this case, the court explicitly overruled the long held precedent in Edwards v. Arizona which had long held that once a defendant invokes his Miranda rights, any subsequent waiver of Miranda is deemed involuntary.  This made it virtually impossible for police to resume questioning of a defendant once they invoked their Miranda rights.  However, in Shatzer, the court held that police can resume questioning of a defendant after he invokes his Miranda rights so long as he has been released from custody and been free for at least 14 days.  Civil Libertarians point to a pattern in which the Supreme Court has been moving towards abolishing, or seriously watering down Miranda.  The decisions issued this week certainly point to that trend.

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