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Court upholds confession after police fail to give Miranda rights, part I

A federal appeals court has recently handed down a decision that many may feel undermine the basic rights that anyone suspected of a crime has -- the rights to remain silent and to an attorney. Almost everyone in Bethesda has heard the Miranda warnings on television before. In fact, many people can recite them by heart after having heard them so many times. Even though everyone may know them, the stress of being accused of a crime and under arrest may make many people forget that they don't have to talk to police and can wait until they have an attorney present to say anything.

For some people, talking to the police may seem like the best way to resolve a dispute or clear up some kind of misunderstanding, but it is essential that before police ask a single question, they read a suspect his or her Miranda rights.

In the past, police tried to get around this requirement by setting up two interrogations. In the first interrogation, the officers would not read the Miranda rights and attempt to get a confession or information out of a suspect. When they got the information they wanted, they would stop the interrogation and then read the suspect his or her Miranda rights. After the rights had been read, officers would attempt to get the suspect to repeat the information he or she just gave.

In 2004, the United States Supreme Court ruled that this "deliberate, two-step interrogation strategy" was not allowed and a second confession could not be used in court. After this recent circuit court case, however, there are now a small number of cases in which a second confession can be admitted.

In this case, the police arrested a suspect on a suspected gun charge. They had the man handcuffed and seated on a couch while a member of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives asked him questions. It is clear that at that point in time, the agent and arresting officers had not read the suspect his Miranda rights. The suspect ended up admitting his involvement to the agents.

In our next blog post, we will talk about the suspect's second confession and the court's decision to make that confession admissible in his criminal case.

Source: Reuters, "No Miranda violation in gun case confession: Appeals court," Basil Katz, May 17, 2012

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James N. Papirmeister, Esq.

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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013