The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

You have the Right to remain stupid...

The title of this piece comes from a sort of litany a friend used to recite whenever he witnessed something, well, stupid.

You have the right to remain stupid.
Should you choose to exercise that right, I have the right to laugh at you at every opportunity.

It comes from a famous ruling by the US Supreme Court commonly referred to as the Miranda Rule.

Are you aware of the Miranda Rule? Of course you are... if you have lived in the US for any period of time and are an aficionado of "cop shows".

A brief history:

In 1966, in Miranda v. Arizona, the US Supreme court ruled that the police must inform a person of his Constitutional right to remain silent in order to use any information provided by that person against him in court. Basically, the court assumed a person being questioned by the police is ignorant of his right against self-incrimination and to an attorney under the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution and then conferred upon the police, the duty to inform said person of that right before any interrogation.

Seems only fair, doesn't it?

It resulted in a shorthand reference of "Miranda Rights" and the Miranda Warning.

You have the right to remain silent.
You have the right to an attorney before any questioning begins.
That anything you say could be used against you in a court of law.

Later, it included explaining that you could get a court appointed attorney.

Is it still necessary? Since the late 60's, every TV police show and movie has featured this warning. Most of us can recite the warning (at least in part) now. Well, certainly those of us who watch the aforementioned cop shows and movies can do so.

I ask about this because it is in the news again. It seems there is some question about who should be warned about their Miranda Rights and when. Especially in cases involving terrorism.

Should terror suspects be given Miranda Warnings?
If so, in what circumstances? Only if arrested within the legal boundaries of the United States? Or during any questioning by an agent of the United States regardless of location? And what bearing should the citizenship status of the detainee have on the matter?

I have mixed feelings about this (as I do on so many things, it seems). I think people should not be denied basic rights regardless of citizenship or the crime of which they are accused. On the other hand, I think the warning is overdone. I was, as many of you know, a member of of the US military at one time. While I was being molded into the type of automaton the military wants (and needs), my rights under the Geneva Convention were drilled into me. I am sure, if I was captured by whatever enemy with whom we were engaged, I would not be informed about those rights by said enemy. Why, then, should I expect the police to inform me of my rights under the Constitution? It seems to me that I, as a citizen, should already be well aware of those rights. That my education should have covered all that.

Therefore, I think the only time these rights need to be emphasized by the authorities is when handling a non-citizen. Because I also think that anytime you are arrested by United States authorities within the legal boundaries of the United States you are protected by the Constitution.


Inspector Clouseau said...

I recently heard a speaker on an immigration panel say the following: Life is not like TalkRadio. It's okay to be conflicted, and even ambivalent about some issues.

Anonymous said...

Well, the reason for the reading of the Miranda rights is to not only inform, probably remind, the arrested of their rights under the circumstances, but to oblige the arresting officers to conduct themselves appropriately too. An arrest by the book will not give a criminal a chance to escape conviction with a claim of "he violated my rights, he didn't even inform me of them!"

At very least, it shows the State making the effort to get everyone on the same page as per an arrested person's rights and that those rights are to be respected throughout the course of what follows. I think it probably is for the best.

Douglas said...

Inspector, that speaker should realize that the vast majority do not need to be reminded of that. Nor do they need to be reminded that a movie star is not an expert because he played a role in a movie once. I could go on...

Zeus, you are correct, it is also a reminder to the officer but it is only because that (failure to inform) has become a loophole. Oddly, in the end, it dd not help Mr. Miranda.
Maybe it should be modified. Maybe a line should be added:
"You have the right to be law abiding. If you choose to exercise that right, you will not face arrest and trial."