Sample police work log: June 2, 2010
Took custody of a shoplift suspect at store. Arrested drunk driver at crash scene. Bought U.S. Supreme Court a Thank You Card.
It’s not everyday a police officer is grateful for a ruling handed down from the country’s highest bench. But then, it’s not everyday that the Supreme Court makes a cop’s job easier, whether it’s arresting a thief or prosecuting a drunk driver. In a recent ruling, the court upheld a murder conviction by a swift rewrite to protocol governing the reading of Miranda warnings.
Miranda warnings, or as they are more appropriate titled, Constitutional Rights, consist of the “You have the right to remain silent” litany that most of us memorized from “Hill Street Blues” or “Law and Order”. In the real world, this recitation has become very cumbersome, especially with the summation, “Knowing these rights, do you wish to waive them and answer questions at this time?”
After thousands of loud and enunciated recitations of Miranda, I can justifiably say that this last sentence simply screams “Don’t answer my questions!”
The basic purpose of law is to protect the innocent. An innocent person is unlikely to break down and confess to a crime he or she did not commit after a brief lesson on constitutional rights. Let’s face it. These rights are a protection for someone who has committed a crime, and the law still requires that they are reminded of those rights. But from there, you’re on your own. Talk or don’t.
Justice Sotomayor disagreed, suggesting that this ruling tends towards “compelled self-recriminations.” I am not sure what the word compelled looks like in the Justice’s legal dictionaries, but it is neither stated nor implied in Miranda.Make up your own mind and answer the questions or not.
The task of holding criminals accountable for their actions just got a bit easier, and police have the U.S. Supreme Court to thank. It’s a rare and welcome sight. Like sunshine in June.