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Boston Marathon Bombing and Protecting Your Rights

What does the Boston Marathon Bombing tell us about Protecting Your Rights?

Ever since Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured following the Boston Marathon bombing, there has been continual debate over the decision not to immediately advise him of his Miranda rights. As a former prosecutor who worked on counter-terrorism matters, and as a currently practicing criminal defense attorney, this debate is somewhat puzzling. Simply put, law enforcement is never obligated to advise someone of their Miranda rights, unless law enforcement intends to introduce a suspect's statement in court. Moreover, even un-Mirandized statements may be admissible in court if they were obtained under the "public safety exception."

In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held that statements made by a suspect in response to police questioning are inadmissible unless the suspect has been advised of his Fifth Amendment rights and voluntarily waives those rights. Miranda rights include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.  Criminal Defense Lawyers are Protecting Your Rights like these every day in courtrooms across America.

Unlike what we often see on television or the movies, Miranda rights only apply where (1) a suspect has been taken into custody or is otherwise deprived of freedom of action in a significant way, and (2) the suspect is questioned while in custody. The rule does not apply where a suspect is in custody but is not questioned. Nor does it apply if the police do not use the suspect's statement, or any evidence derived from the statement, against the defendant in court.

As for the Boston bombings suspect that remains alive, federal officials delayed reading him his Miranda rights by invoking the public safety exception. This exception permits law enforcement officers to engage in custodial interrogation when such questioning is necessary to protect the safety of the police officers or the general public from immediate danger. If the exception applies in a particular situation, it may allow the police and prosecutors to use un-Mirandized statements made in response to custodial interrogation against a particular suspect if / when criminal charges are filed.

Whether enhanced interrogation techniques, such as water-boarding, are appropriate is outside the scope of this blog. Nevertheless, debate over the legal limits of enhanced interrogation in both the criminal and/or intelligence gathering contexts may again surface as a policy issue in the future.

For now, the important thing for individuals to remember is that speaking to the police is a complicated matter. Therefore, before you or a loved one speak with law enforcement, it is vital that you contact an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney so that you can gain a better understanding of your rights.

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