Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Survey Responses - Right to remain silent

The responses to the survey about the Right to Remain Silent when Questioned by a Police Officer have been received and the survey is closed. The reason I created this survey was because I was watching one of those television programs about a criminal conviction being challenged with DNA evidence. Ultimately, it turns out that the person convicted is exonerated based upon the newly obtained DNA evidence. These types of programs go through the background of the case, a re-enactment and sometimes show interviews of witnesses and the suspect. This one showed portions of an interview of the convicted suspect who signed a confession.

Coerced police confessions are not always the result of the dramatic beating of a suspect as is often portrayed in movies. Prior to the famous Miranda case was Watts v Indiana in 1949. There the United States Supreme Court overturned the confession of a suspect who was held for days in solitary confinement in a cell with no place to sit or sleep except on the floor, and was interrogated by relays of police officers, usually until long past midnight.

In this article methods to reducing false confessions are discussed. Of course that doesn't mean that police beatings to force confessions do not still occur. This 2008 story is about a beating of a suspect by the Chicago Police Department.

The right to remain silent exist at many points during police contact. Police officers are not required to advise you of your constitutional right to remain silent and your constitutional right to an attorney unless you are “in custody.” This does not necessarily mean that you have to be in a police vehicle, or in handcuffs, or at the police station. If you have been advised by a police officer to remain somewhere then you are "in custody". The only questions you need to answer are your name and address.

The ACLU provides this article about the erosion of the right.

In Missouri v Seibert, Patrice Seibert was convicted of second-degree murder for her role in the death of Donald Rector in a fire in the mobile home they shared. Seibert was arrested five days after the fire. Before her arrest, a supervising officer told the officers sent out to question Seibert to advise her of her Miranda rights. But before doing so, an officer interrogated her alone for nearly an hour until she made a statement implicating herself.  
The officer then gave her a break and a cup of coffee, and came back 20 minutes later to read Seibert her Miranda rights. He had her sign a waiver, turned on a tape recorder and had her repeat the statements she had made prior to the Miranda warning. The officer said he had been trained to conduct the interrogation this way.
Missouri's highest court later reversed Seibert's conviction due to the unconstitutional method the police had used to obtain her statements.

That tactic is becoming more common, not less, even after the Seibert ruling. If you don't want to sit in prison awaiting the ruling of an appeals court then keep silent.

Police departments in Arizona, a bastion of corruption, are not quick to learn about the rights of citizens. I have previously written about the Arizona Attorney General stealing tax return checks. In Edwards v Arizona the US Supreme Court ruled that once a suspect invokes his right to remain silent and request for legal counsel he cannot waive that right unless the waiver is made knowingly and intelligently.

Ultimately there is one conclusion; invoke your right to remain silent and demand immunity if you are going to speak to the police. One of the alarming results was that 36% of the respondents felt that speak to the police would eliminate themselves as a suspect. The reality is that this just doesn't happen. Police interview suspects to build a case against them without regard for truth. The Miranda right clearly states this; your statements will be used against you.

The results are in no way scientific. The survey was open to anyone through my blawg, Facebook friends and a community chat forum. I have added some commentary and supporting reasoning to both documents.

Survey Answers

Survey Results


Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates

©2009 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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