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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Miranda Rights- Ordinary Citizen or Enemy Combatant

I wrote a post a few months ago about Miranda Rights, when they apply and how they come into play during a driving while intoxicated (DWI) investigation. Miranda has been in the news lately with elected government officials calling for a need to modernize the "public safety" exception to Miranda warnings. The public safety exception allows police to ask questions to a person in custody that would incriminate himself. While the US Constitution is clear that a person has a right to remain silent and not incriminate himself, the US Supreme Court carved out an exception to this when the rights of public safety is 'paramount'. For an excellent summary of the public safety safety exception and how North Carolina courts have interpreted it, see Jeff Welty's blog post on Miranda and Public Safety exception.

The Charlotte Observer published an editorial yesterday authored by Charles Krauthammer titled "Modernize Miranda? Yes!. He agreed with Attorney General Eric Holder that the government should be allowed to question terror suspects about all immediate dangers, but also expand the public safety exception to allow full interrogation of the entire event and any other events being planned. He continued on and stated the "liberals' problem with such interrogation begins with their insistence that terrorists be treated as ordinary criminals rather than enemy combatants." I was talking to a few people about this editorial. Everyone agreed that terrorism is a real threat to our nation. Some agreed that terrorists should not be treated  as ordinary criminals. I'm not sure what an ordinary criminal is... 

However if this goes forward, it will apply to everything. It will apply when you are pulled over for a traffic ticket, investigated for a DWI, stopped in Mecklenburg County at a DWI checkpoint, arrested for a drug offense. This will apply in any investigation by a police officer. While many question if terrorists should be treated like ordinary citizens,  others question whether ordinary citizens will be treated like enemy combatants on a daily basis if this goes forward. 

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posted by Carilyn Ibsen at


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