Right on Miranda

Justices rule: The Constitution protects the right to remain silent as a due-process safeguard.

June 29, 2000

THE SUPREME COURT this week reaffirmed one of the most important decisions of the 20th century -- the Miranda requirement that police advise suspects of their constitutional rights before interrogating them.

It is noteworthy that Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the resounding 7-2 opinion upholding the 1966 Miranda vs. Arizona ruling that assures the right against self-incrimination and the right to an attorney. Justice Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Nixon and named chief justice by President Reagan. His opinion upholds a Warren Court decision that has been criticized often over the years as an example of extremist judicial activism.

Before Miranda, courts had to decide on a case-by-case basis whether confessions to police were unconstitutionally coerced. The Supreme Court on Monday pointed out that the warnings give police clear guidance on how to arrest suspects without violating their rights. Miranda is so embedded in routine police practice that warnings have become part of our national culture, the court said.

In upholding Miranda, the court properly overruled a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (which has jurisdiction over Maryland) that would have plunged the nation back to a confusing, inconsistent and often unconstitutional method of law enforcement.

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