The Miranda Rights and what they entail has been a topic of both legal and political debate. However, recently there has been a development in the aspect of when the right to speak is waived. Our Supreme Court stated once a suspect begins to talk to police after being told he has no force placed on him to, he has waived the right. Against the dissent opinion of new Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the results of this case are not only in the police officer’s favor but also the courts.
Why this case in particular resulted in the Supreme Court is in the first place questionable. Then murder suspect Van Chester Thompkins remained mostly silent for three hours before finally admitting to committing to the crime. First, he was read his rights and seemed to have followed them quietly considering the three-hour interrogation until being asked a certain question pertaining to praying to God after the shooting. Obviously knowing he could have stayed quiet and may have altered the case totally by remaining so, he challenged his own admission stating he had invoked both his right to the Fifth Amendment and to stay silent.
While Sotomayer was quoted calling the decision a “defeat” many see it as a win. Miranda rights are for protection, not for infraction. If saying nothing regarding your rights and then somehow talking equals taking the fifth, the reason for reading Miranda goes out the window. If anyone can admit to anything after staying quiet and then scream about their rights, many cases can be challenged and risked. A reversal of this decision would result in a crisis.
Examining the rights themselves, it is common sense to everyone, whether they have been in trouble or not, that you have a right to be silent and refuse questioning. The Miranda Rights are not a secret nor are they in any way a private objective. One episode of “Law and Order” and some people can recite them better than some police officers. Looking even deeper, obviously you could say Thompkins planned to use the Miranda Rights as a sort of safety net if he needed it when he refused to sign the form.
Moments after the decision was passed, it was labeled as another “limit” on Miranda Rights. No right has been violated. Miranda rights, no matter what any legal response may say, are not in any way challenged by this case. What is challenged is the ability for criminals and suspects to sidestep the courts for their own well-being just in case they slip up and talk to the police. Hence, this is no more a defeat, than a win for our nation’s legal system. Another prospective loophole, which could have freed many offenders if reversed, has been tied around the neck of the criminal world.
Heather Bachman is a political commentator and broadcaster and a New Jersey native. More information can be found at HeatherBachman.com.