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MAY EDITION • 2016


Musings on Miranda

 

dan-dewoskin-new-photoby Daniel DeWoskin
President, DeKalb Bar Association
atlantatrial.com

As we prepare to celebrate Law Day here in DeKalb County this month, it occurred to me that as time goes by, we often lose sight of the importance legal developments and procedural safeguards that protect our civil rights. These may be codified laws or decisions in a particular case, but we tend to take them for granted once we have learned them, argued them, and come to know them so well that we expect the court to know our position before we begin to speak at a motions hearing. Miranda v. Arizona is just such a decision.

The Miranda warning, which was derived from this case fifty years ago, is based upon the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that if the police intend to use the statement of a suspect in police custody against that suspect, they must first advise him of his rights under the fifth and sixth amendments of the U.S. Constitution. In the event that law enforcement fails to adhere to this requirement, such incriminating statements may be excluded from evidence at trial. Most often, the Miranda warning includes stating that the suspect has the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions, that anything the suspect says can be used against him in a court of law, that the suspect has the right to an attorney and if he cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to him by the court.

When I refer to Miranda as something we take for granted, I mean that we have been watching this warning read on television shows and movies for years and years. Children know it from seeing it in popular culture. As far as television is concerned, this warning is typically read with the sound of handcuffs being placed on an arrestee. In actuality, this scenario is unusual. The arresting officer may read Miranda at the time of arrest or may choose to do so later in the process, when the officer intends to actually ask questions after the suspect is in custody. Best practices usually, if not always, dictate that a waiver by the suspect should be in writing to reduce the strength of an argument that a warning was not read, or that the suspect did not in fact waive these rights prior to speaking with law enforcement.

We have been watching this warning read on television shows and movies for years and years. Children know it from seeing it in popular culture.”

In any event, we take the Miranda warning for granted. Just because you cannot turn on a television without seeing the Miranda warning recited in a reality show, news show, or fictional cop drama, that does not mean that it is understood by the population or that it is no longer a crucial factor of criminal justice and procedure. Often, people who are charged with driving under the influence have questions about why the officer did not read them Miranda warnings. In most of these situations, it is because the officer’s investigation is over at the point these drivers are arrested, with the exception being the implied consent warning pertaining to the test of the drivers’ blood, breath, or urine. Implied consent includes its own very specific protocols and recitation. .

The point here is that officers do not need to read the Miranda warning every time a person is arrested. When working with the Fulton County Sheriff’s department, I made several arrests and never once read anyone Miranda. I also never asked anyone any questions about their case, the charges against them, or much of anything for that matter. At those times, I was executing an arrest warrant and had no connection to any investigation into any underlying case or charge. Still, many arrestees would complain as we transported them to jail that we had failed to read them Miranda.

People may have heard of the Miranda warning, but that does not mean they understand it. Clearly, this does not mean that they grasp its significance. However, the requirement that law enforcement read Miranda prior to eliciting incriminating statements is as important now as it ever was. For whatever inconvenience it may be to law enforcement, this safeguard exists because we do not merely pay lip service to Constitutional rights in this country. In the same way that criminal defendants must acknowledge what rights they waive when entering guilty pleas and the same way that courts are not to presume that defendants know they have a right to a jury trial, we do not assume that suspects know their rights because we have all seen them read on television.

In his own 2016 Law Day Proclamation, President Barack Obama stated:

The Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona affirmed that “Equal Justice Under Law” is more than just words, but a cornerstone of our nation’s legal system — the idea that no matter who you are or where you come from, you will be treated equally and afforded due process. As a nation, we should remain steadfastly committed to this principle. In light of the strong opinions that people across the country have regarding immigrants, both who have legal status and without, we must not lose sight of the Constitutional protections afforded to everyone who may be confronted by law enforcement.

Over the years, the Miranda warning has been tested in various cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and other lower courts, but the premise upon which it is based remains intact. The Miranda warning has not become obsolete and it will not be anytime in the near future. This is the natural course of American jurisprudence and it is what advances, defines, and refines our law. It is inspiring to note that Miranda is alive and well, that we collectively preserve its importance.


(1) 384 U.S. 436 (1966)

(2) The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2016). LAW DAY, U.S.A., 2016 [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/public_education/lawday2016/2016lawdayproc.pdf


RSVP Now for Our May 12 Law Day Luncheon

 


April luncheon: DBA members enjoyed the presentation by Attorney Darren Penn, a partner with the firm Harris Penn Lowry – along with a delicious lunch.

The DeKalb Bar Association celebrates Law Day at our May Luncheon. The theme for this year is “Miranda: More Than Just Words.” Be sure to RSVP by Monday, May 9, for this special annual luncheon on Thursday, May 12, at the historic Old Courthouse on the square, 101 E. Court Square in downtown Decatur. RSVP now by clicking here to register.

Enjoy these addtional scenes from the April luncheon:

Here’s what Oakhurst Market has planned for the menu:
Salad Bar
Fried chicken
Green beans
Collard greens
Mac and cheese
Banana pudding

 

Thank you to our Law Day Sponsors
Honorable Matt McCoyd
Davis Adams
Hagen Rosskopf Earle

Thank you to our Corporate Sponsors
A Action Bail Bonds LLC
Fidelity Bank
Insurance Specialists
Tim Martin and Associates
MTBM Global Rehabilitation Consultants, Inc.
Whaley Hammonds Tomasello P.C.


RSVP Now for June 2 FLS Breakfast Meeting

 

The Family Law Section Breakfast is held on the first Thursday of each month, 7:30-9 am at the historic Old Courthouse on the Square in downtown Decatur, 101 E. Court Square. Join us for for a delicious buffet breakfast and a changing lineup of guest speakers who provide insights and new information about family law.

Our guest speaker for the the next breakfast is TBA. To RSVP click here.

For more information . . .
If you practice family law in DeKalb County we encourage you to visit the Family Law Section page on the DeKalb Bar website where you will find valuable information regarding each DeKalb County judge’s preferences for a variety of calendar and procedural issues.


Georgia Child Support Commission Staffers Address DeKalb Bar Family Section

 

Georgia Lordby Georgia Lord
Georgia Lord Law

Two very knowledgeable employees of the Georgia Commission on Child Support shared their insights with those attending the April 7 breakfast meeting of the DeKalb Bar Association Family Law Section: Patricia Buonodono, project director and staff attorney to the commission, and Elaine Johnson, who serves as the commission’s executive program manager. These experts offered many helpful suggestions.

Ms. Buonodono and Ms. Johnson detailed the process of securing payroll deductions for child support. Extensive information about this process can be found on the commission’s web site under “Income Deduction in Georgia.”

From left: Judge JP Boulee and Alice Limehouse; Dawn de Klerk and Judge Christopher McFadden

The speakers also provided general advice regarding collection of child support. They noted that attorneys often called with child support questions that were answered in the statute itself. They also praised the work being done by Georgia’s parental accountability courts. These courts provide intensive services designed for chronic non-payers of child support, they noted, and can turn lives around.

Section Chair Kyla Lines led the meeting. Section Vice-chair Alice Limehouse introduced the speakers and moderated their discussion. Judge Christopher McFadden of the Georgia Court of Appeals attended, as did DeKalb Superior Court Judges Seeliger and Boulee.

The section’s sponsor spotlight featured Amanda Morse of Decatur Family Psychiatry. Amanda explained that although she is new to this practice group, she has a decade of experience, as well as advanced training regarding addictions and eating disorders. She enjoys working with adolescents and young adults. The practice is sponsoring a social skills group for 7- to 10-year-olds, an eating disorder support group, and a self-regulation and DBT skills group.