Let’s make this personal by putting you in the hot seat.
You are a 20-year-old college freshman. You just left a party at two o’clock in the morning. At the party, you drank four beers and smoked two marijuana joints. As you are driving home, you feel “buzzed, but not drunk.” A police officer stops you and states that he witnessed you driving erratically. The police officer asks you if you have had any alcohol to drink and you state that you are not drunk, but drank one or two beers in the afternoon.
Based on your behavior and statements, the police officer arrests you and then tells you that you need to submit to a breath test. The breath test taken five hours after the arrest indicates that your blood alcohol level is just under the legal limit. Not satisfied with the breath test results, the police officer continues his interrogation.
During this interrogation, you admit that you consumed four beers and smoked two marijuana joints within an hour of your arrest. Based on your statements, the police officer charges you with driving while intoxicated (a misdemeanor offense). At no time during the arrest and interrogation does the police officer provide you with your Miranda rights.
Because you aspire to attend law school, you decide to fight the charges. At the trial, you argue that the police officer violated Miranda’s clear directives. In response, the prosecutor argues that you made all of your statements voluntarily and not under duress. Additionally, the prosecutor argues that Miranda rights do not extend to misdemeanor crimes.
1. How do you think that the judge will rule on your motion? When answering this question, please review the summary of the Berghuis v. Thompkins where the Supreme Court considered the position of a suspect who understands his or her right to remain silent under Miranda v. Arizona and is aware he or she has the right to remain silent, but does not explicitly invoke or waive the right. How does this case and/ or other relevant case law impact the judge’s ruling on your motion?
2. Note that it is estimated that about 75% of suspects routinely waive their Miranda rights and talk to the police.1 Do you believe that this suspects are willingly waiving their rights with a full understanding of the rights they are waiving? Why or why not? How can we as a society do better to ensure people are willingly either invoking or waiving their rights? How can we assist law enforcement in their work in doing so?
1 Richard A. Leo, “The Impact of Miranda Revisited,” 86 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 621, 653 (1996).
Please note that your answers have nothing to do with your personal feelings, thoughts or experiences with these issues. Your answers are based purely on the law, specifically precedent set by case law. Reviewing the week 6 lesson will be very helpful to you in finding relevant case law.
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