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Miranda’s Rights: Review

The use Miranda rights in the United States is so common that a trial judge once commented that its use in television investigative dramas series has made the laws part of the American culture. Many citizens now believe that every encounter with the law enforcement officers require the Miranda rights to be read. However, it is only in situations that may lead to arrest, interrogation and or conviction that law enforcement officers ought to read the Miranda rights.

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According to Crawford (1997), this is done for purposes of upholding the fifth amendment of the constitution and subsequently shielding the citizenry from giving self-incriminating information to the arresting officers.

In Texas, just like in other states in the country, the Miranda rights state that a person “has the right to remain silent, any thing he or she says can be used against them in court, has a right to have a defense lawyer, and the right to have the state appoint him a defense lawyer, should he be unable to afford one” (Maedgen, 2008). These rights are made known to a person before he or she is interrogated by the arresting officers.

Though the policies in Texas require that arresting officers to read the arrested person the Miranda rights, there is no denying that the laws have overtime become a complex maze that confuse both the law enforcement officers and the public at large. As Crawford (1997) notes, “no interrogation can be done successfully by the police, without his subject suspecting that the police officer may arrest him afterward.” Even when the law enforcement officers assure the subject that he or she is not under arrest, there is no assurance that self-incriminating details would not lead to arrest.

The courts in Texas, just like everywhere else in the country have not spent much political incentives on the Miranda rights. According to Stuntz (cited in Thomas, 2003), this can be explained by perceived explanations of how the courts expected that Miranda would work. The laws clearly divide suspects into three distinct categories: those who prefer not to talk unless legal counsel is availed, those who waiver their Miranda rights and talk freely to the officers, and those who talk just as long as the interrogations are not intimidating or threatening (Thomas, 2003).

A case in point is the 2001 Texas v. Cobb case where the latter was accused of burglary. To this accusation, Cobb sought the services of an attorney. However, when his father informed the police that his son (Cobb) had admitted killing a mother and her child from the same home he had broken into, an attorney was not present to provide legal counsel or represent him in court. This was however not a voluntary action by Cobb (D’addio, 2004). Cobb was convicted of two counts of murder and sentenced to death. He however appealed against the court ruling claiming that his confessions to the murders should not have been used by the court since his right to legal representation had been invoked during the earlier charges on burglary and was therefore not applicable in the subsequent interrogations about the murders.

The Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas granted him the appeal stating that the police’s interrogation findings were inadmissible since the interrogations into the murder cases were done by police in the absence of legal counsel. As such, it did not matter that Cobb had waived his Miranda rights in the first case, thereby choosing to speak to police freely. Delivering the ruling, justice William Rehnquist stated that the right to an attorney as provided for in the sixth amendment is “offense specific”. As such, he noted that factually related cases must be treated separately from previous cases, which the person in question has already been charged for (D’Addio, 2004).

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Although the Cobb case may have taught law enforcement officers a lesson about following the rules to the latter, Texas, like other states still have loopholes to the proper administration of the Miranda rights. One such loophole has it basis in the fact that Miranda warnings are not mandated in the constitution. As such, a violation of the same does not attract as much seriousness as a constitutional violations does. When a suspect in custody invokes his Miranda rights, the police officers are well aware that the chances of obtaining incriminating information from a suspect are slim if legal counsel is provided. As such, some may continue interrogating the suspect in the hope that they will get some incriminating information or at least some admissible statements for later use. Usually, officers do this because they are aware that ignoring Miranda rights only helps them build a case against the suspect and have no severe legal consequences (Crawford, 1997).

Being a border state, Texas has its fare share of immigrants. However, as Briere (1997) notes, “The Miranda rights are administered in an arguably complex language, which would pose some level of aural knowledge difficulties to people with limited English speaking and comprehension capabilities.” Briere (1997) says that an eight grade student would have problems reading the laws, while a 13th grade student would have problems understanding the contents. As such, it is clear that the rights may not be understood by everybody and therefore are not effective on informing all arrested people that they need not answer any questions from the interrogating officers. Overall, Miranda rights ensure that every arrested citizen is informed accordingly about his or her rights under the fifth constitution amendment. Drawing the line between violations of the rights by the police officers and upholding the same is not always a black and white thing. This is especially so when normal questioning by police leads to an arrest. Although evidence gained by the police during such an incidence is inadmissible in most Texan courts, it always gives the police an undue advantage over the suspect.

References

Briere, Eugene J. (1978). Limited English Speakers and the Miranda Rights. TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 12(3), 235-245

D’Addion, D. (2004). Dual Sovereignty and the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel. Yale Law Journal online. Web.

Maedgen, W. (2008). Texas Law-Miranda Rights. Web.

Thomas III, G. (2003). Miranda’s Illusion: Telling Stories in the Police Interrogation Room. Book Review. Web.

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