In a recent article posted on the CNN website entitled: What are the Boston suspect’s legal rights?, was reported that Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the 19 year old Boston Marathon bombing suspect was put into prison Friday night.
Acoording to authorities, Dzhokar Tsarnaev was not read his Miranda rights when he was arrested. Miranda rights (also the Miranda Warning) is defined by Wikipedia as a warning given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial interrogation) before they are interrogated to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings.
The exact wording of the “Miranda Rights” statement is not specified in the Supreme Court’s historic decision. Instead, law enforcement agencies have created a basic set of simple statements that can be read to accused persons prior to any questioning:
- You have the right to remain silent;
- Anything you say can be used against you in a court;
- You have the right to have an attorney present now and during any future questioning;
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you free of charge if you wish.
The decision not to read Tsarnaev his Miranda rights caused a hot legal discussion of the case this weekend. At issue was the reason of such decision and its impact on the case.
Here are the answers to five questions about the decision, posted on the CNN website.
1. Does a suspect have to be read Miranda rights?
According to law enforcement officials, they only have to read a suspect his Miranda Rights if they are going to use his statements at trial. But in the Tsarnaev case, it goes about a designation, called the public safety exception, that allows investigators to question a suspect before apprising him of his rights when they believe there is an imminent public safety threat.
More information about the “Public Safety” Exception to Miranda may be found in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 2011.
“When police officers are confronted by a concern for public safety, Miranda warnings need not be provided prior to asking questions directed at neutralizing an imminent threat, and voluntary statements made in response to such narrowly tailored questions can be admitted at trial,” the bulletin read.
2. What other reasons might there be for not reading a suspect’s Miranda rights?
Some U.S. lawmakers call on to treat Tsarnaev as an “enemy combatant” under military law rather than through the civilian courts as a criminal suspect. The designation as an “enemy combatant” allows a suspect to be questioned without an attorney and without being informed of his Miranda rights.
In case Tsarnaev, a naturalized American citizen, is given such a designation, he could face state-level murder charges, but Massachusetts does not have the death penalty.
3. How do Miranda rights affect evidence gained from questioning?
If a person consciously and voluntarily waives these rights, then anything he says to authorities can be used against him as evidence at a criminal trial. With the public safety exception, the government is allowed to question a suspect without reading him his Miranda rights and still use the statements at his criminal trial.
4. If he asks for his Miranda rights, do they have to be read to him?
Not at all. Miranda is only significant for statements made by the defendant that prosecutors intend to use later at trial.
5. What if a suspect is unable to communicate?
As it is known, Tsarnaev is unable to speak at the present time. However, it’s not necessary to be able to speak; one can communicate in other ways.
But there are factors which could postpone his arraignment: He must be of sound mind to understand the charges against him. If he gets an attorney before arraignment, his attorney could ask for a delay until he can properly communicate with his client. His attorney is also likely to request that any interrogation by law enforcement cease.
This is not an ordinary criminal case, and a brief interrogation under that exception is wholly insufficient.
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