The Right to Remain Silent – Understanding the Miranda Warning

The Miranda Warning is given to suspects prior to questioning and understanding this right to remain silent is critical to prevent self-incrimination.

“Book ’em Danno”

Photo by: houstondwiPhotos mp

Photo by: houstondwiPhotos mp

The Miranda Warning is heard by thousands of people every day while enjoying their favorite police or detective show on television. During many series’, popular catch phrases are offered following the highly anticipated arrest of a suspect. One such phrase is: “you have the right to remain silent.” Unfortunately, large majorities of the public hear this repeated on a regular basis yet fail to understand it is a warning of their constitutional right to remain silent.

Miranda v. Arizona

The Miranda Warning became the norm following four major cases, one being Miranda v. Arizona, in which suspects were interrogated at length, and as a result offered full admissions to their crimes. Each of the suspects was not made aware before or during their interrogation that they had a legal right to stay silent. The Supreme Court determined that Fifth Amendment rights had been violated, and reversed the ruling on three of the four cases.

1966 Supreme Court Ruling

Photo by: Matt Wade

Photo by: Matt Wade

The Supreme Court stated: “The prosecution may not use statements ( . . . ) stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination.” Also that “without proper safeguards the process of in-custody interrogation of persons suspected or accused of crime contains inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual’s will to resist and to compel him to speak where he would otherwise do so freely.” Thus followed the Miranda warning in which a defendant “must be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires.”

Constitutional right to remain silent

Right to Remain Silent

Photo by: Craig Sunter

The right to remain silent spoken of in the Miranda Warning is derived from the Fifth Amendment which stipulates: “[no person] shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”. Therefore, no one has to answer questions which would aide in a criminal case brought against them. Thus if the suspect, whether guilty or innocent, fear they may say something to incriminate themselves, they are allowed by law to not respond to questions asked by authorities. If they do offer information to police openly or during questioning after the Miranda Warning is given, that information and any evidence resulting from it is admissible in court.

Delayed or lack of Miranda Warning

The Miranda Warning is typically given shortly after the handcuffs are placed on a suspect, yet legally can happen any time before the interrogation begins. Interrogation doesn’t always transpire in a cement room with a two way mirror; interrogation can be any questioning done by authorities after an arrest is made. If information is obtained through questioning prior to Miranda Warning, said information, and any evidence obtained because of it has the possibility of being thrown out.

Invoke rights and call an attorney

Photo by: Martin Cathrae

Photo by: Martin Cathrae

While everyone is allowed their Fifth Amendment rights, it is important to let authorities know those rights are being invoked, and that the suspect is not merely playing the silent game. Silence without invoking Fifth Amendment rights may be seen as evidence of guilt. Additionally, once someone has announced they are using their right to stay silent, they should immediately retain legal counsel, another right declared in the Miranda Warning. A reputable criminal defense attorney will aid their client in only offering non-implicating statements while ensuring that no constitutional rights are violated.

Bigamy in Utah – Equal Rights for all Marriages

Following the legalization of same-sex marriages, those wishing to practice bigamy in Utah may be wondering if and when there will be equal rights for all marriages.

Marriage equality

Photo by: Kate Hiscock

Photo by: Kate Hiscock

On June 26th, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were to be legal in all fifty states. This ruling from the Supreme Court was celebrated as a huge victory by supporters of the LGBT community. Those in favor of gay marriage argued that no one should be discriminated against when choosing a marital partner; that everyone ought to have the right to wed whom they love. Any other decision by the courts would be unconstitutional.

The new accepted marriage

Now that the constricting barrier of protecting the sanctity of “traditional marriage” has finally been lifted nationwide, other couples choosing non-traditional relationships, such as marrying multiple spouses, wish to have similar rights. Unfortunately for them, the practice of bigamy is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison; Prison time for trying to legally marry people they love. Traditional marriage may not exist in the way America remember as one man and one woman; perhaps it has been redefined to specify monogamous marriages only. It appears the lines may have been adjusted to fit what is publicly accepted.

Bigamy

Photo by: Keoni Cabral

Photo by: Keoni Cabral

Bigamy is often referred to a second marriage where the spouses are unaware of another husband or wife while polygamy is thought to be a multi-marriage where everyone knows each other. What is known as polygamy is often ordained by a religious leader but without a legally binding contract. Technically, bigamy is the official definition for all types of marriages that consist of more than two partners. This is discussed in Utah Code 76-7-101 which states: A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.”

Cohabitation

Although bigamy is still against the law, there have been small strides that may eventually open doors for spouses practicing bigamy. In December 2013, a federal judge deemed that a portion of Utah Code 76-7-101 that covers bigamy was unconstitutional. The part in question involved bigamy without marriage which was known legally as a married person who “cohabits with another person”. This federal ruling striking down that portion of 76-7-101 came after Kody Brown and his four wives came under attack for their polygamous relationship. The Browns, a polygamous family in Utah, were made famous for their involvement in the hit television series Sister Wives. Although Brown was only legally married to his first wife, the fact that he lived with four wives and had children with all of them deemed them married through cohabitation or common-law. Facing a third degree felony for each extra wife he had, Brown and his wives went to federal court where their polygamous relationship was deemed legal. Eventually Brown may be able to wed his other wives legally.

Child bigamy

Photo by: dani0010

Photo by: dani0010

As the state of Utah shows an imaginable future of decriminizing bigamy, there is one type that has little chance of ever becoming legal. Child bigamy is defined in Utah Code 76-7-101.5 as “An actor 18 years of age or older ( . . . ) knowing he or she has a wife or husband, or knowing that a person under 18 years of age has a wife or husband, the actor carries out the following with the person who is under 18 years of age:

(a) purports to marry the person who is under 18 years of age; or
(b) cohabits with the person who is under 18 years of age.”

Bigamy with minors, which is considered a type child abuse to many, will likely remain against the law indefinitely as a second degree felony.

Bigamy in the future

As many citizens take a more liberal approach to traditional marital relationships, adults wishing to marry multiple other adults may soon find themselves celebrating their own legal victory. Until then, bigamy is still punishable under Utah state law. Anyone facing charges for bigamy or for polygamy involving cohabitants only are encouraged to speak with a criminal defense attorney.