As a result of a decision from a federal circuit court of appeals, the 33-year old Miranda rule may be on its way to the dustbin!
The Miranda rule requires police to inform a suspect that he has a right to silence and a right to have counsel with him while he is being interrogated. Failure to inform a suspect of his rights will result in any confession being inadmissible against him at trial.
But is compliance with the Miranda rule a Constitutional duty? Is it the U.S. Constitution which requires a police officer to advise a suspect of his rights? Is failure to give the Miranda warnings to a suspect before interrogating him a violation of his Constitutional rights? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be surprised to learn otherwise.
THE CASE BEGINS
On January 24, 1997, a man armed with a semi-automatic pistol and carrying a black leather bag burst into a bank in Alexandria, Virginia and robbed it of approximately $896.00. He ran out of the bank and down the street to a white Oldsmobile Ciera. He tossed something into the trunk and got into the car on the front passenger side. The car then sped away.
Witnesses had taken notice of the car and its license plate, and investigation soon disclosed that the car was registered to Charles T. Dickerson of Maryland. Three days later, FBI Special Agent Lawlor and other agents went to Dickerson’s apartment. Although Dickerson would not allow the agents to search his apartment, he consented to go with them to the FBI field office.
At the field office, Dickerson first denied any involvement in the bank robbery, but admitted that he had been in the vicinity of the bank on the date of the robbery. He had met a friend quite by chance and had driven him to a liquor store at his request.
While Dickerson was being questioned, Agent Lawlor acquired a telephonic warrant from a federal magistrate to search Dickerson’s apartment. Dickerson finally admitted to being the getaway driver in a series of bank robberies. He admitted that the January 24th robbery had actually been committed by a Jimmy Rochester, but he (Dickerson) had been the driver of the getaway car. Dickerson was then arrested.
Dickerson was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy, bank robbery and using a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of federal criminal statutes.