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Justice seeks to overturn recent Miranda ruling

By Pierre Thomas/CNN

March 10, 1999
Web posted at: 11:06 a.m. EST (1606 GMT)

WASHINGTON (March 10) -- The Justice Department is seeking to overturn a recent federal appellate court ruling that some people fear weakens the Miranda warning given by police to suspects.

In a motion filed in Richmond on Monday, Justice attorneys wrote that a three-judge appellate panel erred in its 2-1 ruling last month that concluded that Miranda lacked constitutional standing.

The attorneys argued that the appellate court "may not disregard controlling Supreme Court precedent."

"Miranda has never been overruled, and it is the Supreme Court's sole province to pass on the validity of its decisions," the brief said.

The Justice Department asked for a new hearing before the full 11-member 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court's historic 1966 ruling in Miranda vs. Arizona declared that police must inform suspects that they have a right to an attorney, a right to remain silent nd that their statements may be used against them. Suspects are also to be told that a lawyer will be appointed to them if they can't afford one.

But for now, federal prosecutors in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina are bound by the ruling that a little-known federal law effectively overrides the Supreme Court's Miranda ruling.

The 4th Circuit ruling came in the case of Charles Dickerson, who is charged with 18 bank robberies in three states. Dickerson confessed to committing a bank robbery in Alexandria, Virginia, but was not read his Miranda rights.

A lower court judge said the confession was inadmissible. The appeals panel overturned that ruling.

The appeals court opinion said prosecutors may use a suspect's voluntary confession, even if he or she had not been advised of those Miranda rights.

The court cited a law passed by Congress in 1968 that was designed to essentially reverse Miranda. It allows the use of voluntary confessions where suspects were not read their rights.

That law, known in legal circles as "3501," has never been enforced by the Justice Department, which believes it is unconstitutional.

The issue is likely to ultimately end up at the Supreme Court.

Conservatives have long complained that the Miranda ruling is burdensome and allows criminals to go free on "technicalities."

Supporters argue the ruling has reduced forced confessions in violation of Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, and ensured proper standards by arresting officers.


RELATED STORIES

Justice Department: Latest Miranda ruling 'wrongly decided' (2-17-99)

New Miranda limits draw mixed legal reactions (2-11-99)

Court limits Miranda ruling in five states (2-10-99)


RELATED SITES

U.S. Department of Justice Web site

Opinions of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Miranda Rights: American Treasures of the Library of Congress



MORE STORIES:

Wednesday, March 10, 1999

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