SCOTUS Rules 5-4 To Weaken Miranda Decision; Sotomayor Writes Dissent

This, of course, is why it's so important to put a reliable liberal vote on the Supreme Court. Left to its own devices, the Roberts court will continue to chip away at our civil liberties:

The Supreme Court backed off Tuesday from strict enforcement of its historic Miranda decision, ruling that a crime suspect's words can be used against him if he fails to clearly tell police that he does not want to talk.

In the past, the court said the "burden rests on the government" to show that a crime suspect had "knowingly and intelligently waived" his rights. Some police departments tell officers not to begin questioning until a suspect has waived his rights, usually by signing a waiver form..

But in Tuesday's 5-4 decision, the court shifted the balance in favor of the police, saying a suspect has a duty to speak up and say he does not want to talk.

Moreover, the police are "not required to obtain a waiver" of the suspect's "right to remain silent before interrogating him," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote.

In her first strongly written dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the ruling "turns Miranda upside down" and "marks a substantial retreat from the protection against compelled self-incrimination."

Some experts on police questioning said the court's subtle shift would be felt in station houses across the country.

"This is the most important Miranda decision in a decade. And it will have a substantial impact on police practices," said Charles Weisselberg, a law professor at UC Berkeley. "This decision approves of the practice of giving the warnings and then asking questions of the suspect, without asking first whether he wants to waive his rights."

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