March 18, 2008

Miranda waiver must be clear, court rules

"I'm good for tonight" doesn't cut it

A caricatured staple on TV police procedurals, the Miranda warning has been gradually stripped of its original intentions of protecting naïve suspects and turned into yet another tool of law enforcement.

A ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week went against that dominant trend. The government has a "heavy burden" to show that a suspect made a clear and unambiguous waiver of his Miranda rights prior to police questioning, the court held in United States v. Jose Rodriguez.

"I'm good for tonight" is too ambiguous of a statement to count as a waiver.

The importance of this case is discussed in detail by Steven Kalar at the 9th Circuit Blog. For more in-depth discussions of Miranda in contemporary police practice, see Richard Leo's Police Interrogation and American Justice and Charles Weisselberg's Mourning Miranda.

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