The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Saturday released a statement [press release] reacting to statements by federal officials that the recently apprehended Boston bombing suspect will not be read his Miranda rights [LII backgrounder] before being interrogated. A US Department of Justice [official website] official announced on Friday that the government will be invoking the public safety exception [AP report] to not read him his Miranda rights before interrogating him on certain topics. This exception was announced by the US Supreme Court [official website] in New York v. Quarles [opinion], but has been applied narrowly to allow police officers to refuse to read suspects their Miranda rights when they believe that there is an ongoing threat to public safety which requires answers to certain questions related to that threat. The ACLU, however, stated that this exception "should be read narrowly" and "is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule." ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero cited the dangers to fair application of the justice system that could result:
Additionally, every criminal defendant has a right to be brought before a judge and to have access to counsel. We must not waver from our tried-and-true justice system, even in the most difficult of times. Denial of rights is un-American and will only make it harder to obtain fair convictions.The suspect remains hospitalized in serious condition and is being guarded heavily [AP report], but investigators have been unable to interrogate him and establish the motive for the bombing.
Although the right of criminal defendants to be read Miranda warnings was established in 1966 in Miranda v. Arizona [opinion], the practice of reading defendants their rights and the exceptions that apply still create controversy. Earlier this month, JURIST guest columnists Hank Asbill, Brian Murray and Andrew Pinson of Jones Day [official website] wrote an op-ed [JURIST comment] arguing that allowing prosecutors to use refusal to answer pre-arrest, pre-Miranda warning questions as an admission of guilt violates the Fifth Amendment [text]. The Supreme Court has also examined two aspects of the rule in recent cases. Last month, the Court in Howes v. Fields [opinion; JURIST report] refused to expand the Miranda rule to apply to private questioning of prisoners about events occurring outside of prison. Last year, the Court ruled that age is a factor [JURIST report] in determining whether a suspect is considered to be in custody for the purpose of reading Miranda rights.