Seven Myths About the Specific Nature and Effect of Miranda Warnings

In their article in Criminal Justice ( “Miranda Rights…And Wrongs”,23 Crininal Justice 5-9 Summer 2008) Richard Rogers, Danies W. Shuman and Eric Drogin discuss seven myths upon which they believe”..the interpretation and application of Miranda” still rest. Here in abbreviated form are the seven myths they discuss:

Myth #1: Everyone Already Knows the Miranda Warnings

“…The criminal justice system needs to accept the falsity of the notion that ‘ everyone already knows Miranda‘ in order to begin dertermining what to communicate, how to communicate, and what to access on an individual basis”.

Myth #2 Miranda Warinings Are the Same Wherever You Go.

“Not only do warnings vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, they also vary within jurisdictions as well. For example, Allegheny Counnty, Pennsylvania, has four difference Miranda warnings, corresponding to arresrts involving the police department, the sheriff’s department, the university, and the railroad station…”

Myth #3 “Smart Enough to Do the Crime” Means Smart Enough to Understand Miranda warnings.

“This myth of ‘sufficient intelligence’ falters on its basic premise, since many crimes require virtually no intelligence to commit. Indeed, some offenders display such minimal acumen and capacity for foresight that their immediate apprehansion is virtually assured.”

Myth #4 Oral and Written Miranda Warnings Have the Same Effect.

” Recent research has established that orally presented warnings produce major deficits in Miranda comprehension…. Using a suspect’s understanding of less that 50 percent of Miranda components as the benchmark for ‘failed comprehension’, [a] study revealed startling differences for recently arrested detainees: Those receiving oral warnings ‘failed’ three times as often as those receiving written warnings at an accessible reading level”.

Myth #5 While Miranda Warnings are Easy to Understand, Juvenile Warnings Are Very Easy to Understand.

Miranda applies to juvenile suspects every bit as much as to adults…. .One eveluation of 122 juvenile Miranda warnings from across the United States found–most unexpectedly–that juvenile Miranda warnings tend to be more than 50 words longer than those general warnings intended for all age groups….The range was estraordinary: 52 to 526 words for the warning itself, and 64 to 1,020 words for the total Miranda material. Additionally, the reading levels for the juvenile Miranda warnings were actually slightly higher that warnings intended for general use…”

Myth #6 Miranda Warnings Delivered in Spanish Are the Same as Those Delivered in English.

“The quality of Spanish Miranda translations is highly variable. Errors range from awkward usage to mistranslations, the most striking examples of which involve the inclusion of nonexistent ‘Spanish’ words. In some instances, the meaning of the currently employed
English warnings is substantively misconstrued, while in others the attempt is unsuccessful because it fails to convey a specific Miranda entitlement.”

Myth #7 Suspects Understand that Heeding Miranda Warnings Isn’t Harmful.

“This myth rests upon two erroneous assumptions about the right to exercise one’s Miranda rights. The first boils down to a belief that there are only tow alternatives: ‘ dammed if I do’ and ‘ dammed if I don’t’ This plays out as:

1. If I talk, anything I say can and will be used as evidence against me; however,
2. If I remain silent, my lack of cooperation can and will be used as evidence against me.

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