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Rights Against Self-Incrimination

Abstract

The prosecution office in this country has the responsibility of proving to the court that a given suspect is guilty as charged. the Fifth Amendment gives the suspects right to remain silent when arrested, while the Sixth Amendment gives them right to have an attorney. The Queen County District Attorneys have been going against the law by interrogating the suspects in absence of their lawyers. They manipulate the suspects and promise them lighter sentences only to use their statements against them in the court. This act of dishonesty defeats justice the courts are supposed to uphold. It should be prohibited by the law of this land in order to uphold rights of the suspects.

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Introduction

The United States has made various amendments to the laws concerning management of suspects who are in the police custody. The Fifth Amendment of the country’s constitution was meant to safeguard the rights of suspects from being coerced to give self-incriminating statements. In the past, the prosecution teams had sweeping powers to use mechanisms that can help them gather facts from the suspects. This even involved use of physical force to coerce confession from the suspects. This law was repealed because it was realized that in most of the cases, innocent people would be subjected to pain. It would not be possible to reverse such pains when the suspect is declared innocent. That is why the Fifth Amendment allows the suspect a right to remain silent while in custody. The Sixth Amendment that entitles a suspect to a lawyer supports the Fifth Amendment in ensuring that the right of a suspect is protected until such a time that the court will make a verdict. In light of these facts, there has been a controversy over the decision of the Queen’s County District Attorneys to coerce suspects into making self-incriminating statements while in custody. This essay will analyze the legality of this act based on the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

Discussion and Analysis

The Queen County District Attorney’s Office has developed an act that many consider a direct violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (Taylor, 2004). The act of interviewing suspects with the aim of making them confess their crime in the absence of their attorneys is a contravention of the American constitution. However, this office has been using this strategy by pretending to be on the side of the suspect only to get their confession and use it against them before the court. It is important to understand the latter and spirit of this law. According to Queensland and Queensland (2003), the Fifth Amendment was meant to protect innocent people who are mistakenly arrested for a crime committed by other parties. In the past, there were state organs that subjected such suspects to torture in order to get confession from them. A clear example is the Guantanamo bay. At this facility, the government agencies use some of the worse methods of torture to make the suspects confess their crime and name the purported accomplices. A report by Skerker (2010) indicates that in some of the cases, the suspects would succumb to the pain while at this camp. Most of the suspects who are taken to this camp end up confessing the crime conferred against them even when they are innocent. The pain becomes so unbearable that any option out of such pain will be acceptable. Sometimes the suspects are forced to name their accomplices in such purported crime. The pain they undergo during such operations would make them accuse innocent friends because of lack of any alternative. This means that innocent people would end up in prison while the real culprits are walking freely in the streets. This is one of the worst ways of defeating justice.

The Fifth Amendment was meant to correct a mistake that has seen many people languish in prison for crimes they never committed. This law requires the police officers to remind a suspect of his or her right to remain silent as soon as he or she is arrested. In fact, this is the second statement that should come immediately after the suspect is informed that he or she is under arrest. Once this is done, the principles of the Sixth Amendment should apply as soon as the suspect is taken to the police custody. The first statement that the office should make to the suspect is that he or she has the right to an attorney. The prosecution team will need to dig into the evidence and find the information that will convince the court that the suspect is guilty. As Choo (2013) puts it, the burden of the proof always lies with the prosecution, and at no moment should the suspect be forced to prove his or her own guilt before the court of law. The spirit of this law lies in the belief that before one is arrested, the prosecution must have gathered reasonable ground to make them believe that the suspect committed the crime. As the investigative arm, the district attorneys have the responsibility to develop such grounds using their own investigation and willing witnesses. However, an attempt to use the suspects to confess of their own crime is a direct indication that there is a reasonable doubt in the case, and the prosecution is looking for ways of sealing the loopholes.

The Queen County District Attorney’s Office has been disregarding both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The law expects the prosecution to allow the suspect access to a lawyer. In there is a clarification that the prosecution needs from the suspect, the request should be made before his or her attorney. In such circumstances, the lawyer reserves the right to advise the accused to respond to some specific questions and ignore others, which may be self-incriminating. However, the prosecution team is disregarding all these well-laid rules and regulations that define their code of conduct. The attorneys are manipulating the suspects to confess knowing very well that any statement they make can be used against them in court.

The work of the prosecutor is to get deep into the issue and investigate it thoroughly. The office of the attorney is expected to use all the resources available at its disposal to uncover the truth and bring to court evidence and witnesses that will support its claim. This does not include the confession from the suspect unless the confession is given voluntarily, in which case the suspect will be acting as a witness against him or herself. However, this should not be under any form of influence. The prosecution team should not convince them to confess in favor of benefits such as light sentences.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The analysis above clearly demonstrates that the District Attorney has been contravening the law by coercing suspects to confess their crimes in absence of their attorneys. The office of the prosecutor is forgetting an important fact that it is part of a legal system. As part of a legal system, it should strive to achieve justice at all costs. Our society has come to realize that making the accused to confess their crimes is one of the ways of defeating justice. It does not matter whether the prosecution team is using threats or promises of favorable terms. The act of questioning the suspects in absence of their lawyers is in itself an ill-informed motive to frame a suspect. The prosecution team may consider it a shorter way of gathering evidence and proving that a given suspect is guilty. However, this approach harms the proper approach of investigation. It limits the ability of the judicial system in this country to deliver justice. For these reasons, the following recommendations should be considered.

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  • Anew law should be enacted that invalidates any confessions that a suspect makes in custody in absence or his or her attorney.
  • The law should prohibit prosecution team from gathering any evidence from the suspect unless they get an official request from the suspect through his or her lawyer.
  • The judiciary may need to conduct regular public awareness campaigns to inform the society of the rights of anyone suspected of any form of offence.

References

Choo, A. (2013). The privilege against self-incrimination and criminal justice. New York: Cengage.

Queensland, G. & Queensland, M. (2003). The abrogation of the privilege against self-incrimination. Brisbane: The Commission.

Skerker, M. (2010). An ethics of interrogation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Taylor, J. B. (2004). The right to counsel and privilege against self-incrimination: Rights and liberties under the law. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

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