Citizens of the United States Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3817 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

¶ … citizens of the United States to misunderstand the true nature of their Miranda Rights. Often times, misconceptions are drawn from the media's representations of how invoking one's Miranda Rights will make one look guilty. In many situations, these misconceptions are exploited by law enforcement in order to try to exact incriminating evidence even with the invocation of one's Miranda Rights. The situation is even more difficult when examining the most vulnerable populations, like juveniles and the mentally challenged. Clearly, misconceptions regarding the nature of Miranda Rights are placing people in potential danger of incriminating themselves.

Evaluating Miranda Rights: Clear Problems that Keep Many Suspects Vulnerable

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The concept of the rights of the accused was first drafted within the Bill of Rights, and received a huge ally in the 1966 court case demanding that suspects be informed of their right to remain silent and seek legal counsel -- known as their Miranda Rights. Yet, despite the protection Miranda Rights offer potential suspects, it is clear that many do not fully understand their rights, which often leads them to endanger themselves through offering up self-incrimination. Some individuals have false conceptions of what their Miranda Rights entail, as provided by their only experience of them coming from the media, while others falsely believe that invoking their rights will only make them look guiltier later on in court. Too often, police take advantage of people's misconceptions and use it against them, even in extremely vulnerable populations like juveniles and special needs suspects. Clearly, many individuals are failing to realize the true extent of their Constitutional rights, and thus are left vulnerable even in spite of protecting legislation like the ability to invoke their Miranda Rights.

Term Paper on Citizens of the United States Assignment

The establishment of Miranda Rights was a huge step in the right direction to help protect citizens being accused of crimes. Previous to this decision, many citizens were not aware of their right to remain silent and seek legal counsel during the time they were being arrested and interrogated. As a result, many people provided evidence for confessions in a situation which could have been avoided if they would've understood and recognized the fact that they did not have to provide this information to law enforcement. Prior to the Miranda decision, the court to recognize coerced confessions is inherently untrustworthy and used a 'totality of the circumstances' test to determine admissibility of a waiver of rights against self-incrimination" (Goldstein et al., 2004, 359). Yet, this lack of standardized testing often created a situation where such rulings were extremely inconsistent. What was applied to one case was not necessarily apply to another, and suspects often never really knew how they could protect themselves against incriminating themselves.

Many individuals who did not understand their Constitutional rights were thus placed in a position of vulnerability where they could be taken advantage of by law enforcement agents and strategies. One particular suspect took a stand against this point of practice, which resulted in the legislation that helps protect the rights of the accused more than ever today. In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested for the kidnapping and rape of an 18-year-old girl. After intensive and Terry nation and pressure placed on him by police, Miranda has signed a confession. However, he was never told that he had the right to seek legal counsel nor was he advised that he did not have to speak to the police in order protect himself from incriminating himself (National Paralegal, 2012). As such, Miranda later sued the state of Arizona claiming that he was not properly informed of his constitutional rights when he needed them most. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court in the monumental case known as Miranda v. Arizona in 1966 (National Paralegal, 2012). The result was the requirements of all law enforcement agencies within the United States to specifically inform all suspects being arrested on their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights, or the notion that they can remain silent and seek legal counsel without having to speak with the police at the time of their arrest.

Today, all law enforcement agents have to read suspects their Miranda Rights, which informed these suspects of the right to remain silent and the right to seek legal counsel. These rights ensure the protection of 5th Amendment, which aims to provide citizens with protection against incriminating themselves (Miranda Rights, 2013). They also provide protection for 6th Amendment rights to legal counsel. Essentially, the rights are the basis for providing protection for the accused in an environment where everybody is considered innocent until found guilty. After the court case, "prior to any questioning, the suspect must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement the suspect does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed, and that the defendant may waive effectuation of these rights" (National Paralegal, 2012). This was an essential movement to help protect the rights of the accused, which had been ignored for far too long. There are simply too many Americans unaware of their constitutional rights for whatever reason, and us when these individuals were being arrested they were being denied their basic civil liberties. The Miranda Rights that are now required to be informed to all suspects was placed under arrest thus "buttressed the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination by requiring as a procedural safeguard that various aspects of this privilege be clearly communicated to custodial suspects" (Rogers et al. 2010, p 300). If the individual is not exclusively and explicitly told about their right to remain silent and demand Council, any evidence taken from an investigation and interrogation of that individual may be excluded from a court of law. Still, suspects have the right to waive their Miranda Rights and thus talk to police immediately and without the presence of their legal counsel. Yet, the Supreme Court made it clear that such waivers had to be done knowingly and consciously by fully capable adults who understand the consequences of such actions. As such, "a waiver is only valid if it is given knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. In other words, the suspect must understand the vocabulary in the warning and the basic meaning of the rights, appreciate the consequences of waiving the rights, and provide the waiver without coercion or police intimidation" (Goldstein et al., 2004, p 360).

However, the research clearly shows obvious problems within the actual understanding of Miranda Rights by the public. There are clear issues about misconceptions and misunderstandings that lead individuals to make poor decisions in regards to waiving their Miranda Rights. Not speaking English is one clear way people can misinterpret Miranda rights, yet there are now currently laws in place which force law enforcement to read Miranda rights in whatever language the suspect is fluent in. This has helped avoid suspects not understanding their rights to remain silent based on language barriers. Yet, even in English-speaking populations, there are clear misunderstandings of the rights that lead to suspect vulnerabilities, as seen in Rogers et al. (2010). This study explores how a surprising number of English speaking citizens make major misconceptions regarding their Miranda Rights. It is this notion of truly understanding one's constitutional rights that become so problematic, especially in situations with vulnerable populations. First, there are issues about whether or not these rights are fully understood by the suspects in custody. It has been a trend in both federal and local courts to assert that "if self-incriminatory statements are to be admitted into evidence, and Miranda warnings must have been stated, irrespective of the suspects alleged prior familiarity" (Rogers et al. 2010, p 301). Essentially, this means that the Miranda Rights just need to be spoken, and that the suspect in custody does not need to really be able to understand them. This has created a number of problems within the law enforcement system, as many civil rights groups have attested that simply announcing the Miranda Rights are not enough and that they must be made to be understood by the suspect in order to stay true to the actual tenants of the law.

One study uncovered that the representation of Miranda Rights within the media, specifically with the television and film, tends to provide the public with misconceptions about their constitutional rights. Rogers et al. (2010) conducted a study which surveyed recently arrested participants and question them about their knowledge of their Miranda Rights. This knowledge was then compared and contrasted "with those of undergraduate students representing a more educated and comparatively unstressed segment of society" (300). These two very different groups both had extremely different conceptions of what it was that their Miranda Rights actually entailed, although there were clear misconceptions in both. The group that was most confused, however, was clearly those who have been arrested recently within a four-week span, and who do not have the educational background that the students did. This often resulted in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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