Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Posted By Cliff Tuttle | May 11, 2010

Stung by criticism over Miranda warnings given to the “Christmas Bomber”, there is a movement afoot in Congress ( see Jurist article for details) to “limit” the rights of a suspected terrorist to be made aware of the right to counsel before self-incriminating statements. The Miranda warning, familiar to everyone who watches crime shows on TV, is the way our courts ensure that a citizen is made aware of his rights under the United States Constitution.

Yes, there may be compelling safety reasons justifying an immediate interrogation.  And yes, the introduction of the ideas contained in the Miranda warning may inhibit the suspect from relating important details of an ongoing conspiracy involving threat to human life.  But, if such information must be obtained, not using it to convict  is the price that the Fifth Amendment assesses on police seeking to protect both society and the accused.

The reported strategy of the legislation — to “strip” the suspect of US citizenship because of the nature of the charges — is constitutionally untenable because it deprives a citizen of valuable rights without due process, also the Fifth Amendment.

I will bet the first person to contact me with a contrary comment, a month of (modestly priced) lunches that any legislation seeking to permit a citizen to be convicted on a confession deliberately obtained without a Miranda warning will not make it past the United States Supreme Court, regardless of the ideological composition of the Court at the time.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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