Staff Editorial – Don’t mangle Miranda

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments April 19 from police and local prosecutors wishing to end the requirement that police officers read the Miranda rights prior to questioning suspects. The Justices must not strip away one of the fundamental safeguards against police impropriety.

The simple script is no guarantee of liberty and is not the main issue. The real target of this case is the exclusionary rule, which mandates that confessions elicited from suspects not properly Mirandized cannot be heard in court. Some groups see this provision as a central flaw in the criminal justice system. The exclusionary rule is often the technicality to which prosecutors refer when judges suppress illegally obtained evidence. However, the guarantees of the Miranda decision are fundamental liberties found in the Fifth Amendment.

Additionally, the argument that the warning is common knowledge is simply fallacious. Not all citizens are so well-informed. Also, America hosts many foreign visitors each year, all of whom are protected by the Miranda rights. Undoubtedly, few tourists and immigrants are familiar with the latest legal developments.

Occasionally, judges may exclude confessions. And yes, sometimes guilty defendants go free. These rare situations are tragic yet unavoidable.

Clearly, the criminal justice system is an imperfect construct. With that in mind, imagine the number of people who will be railroaded into prison ignorant of their rights should the Supreme Court strike down the Miranda decision and repeal the exclusionary rule. Imagine the consequences of tipping the scales of an imperfect system so far against a defendant supposedly presumed innocent, as to actually deny a fair trial.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.