Modified Miranda warnings OK’d by Supreme Court

On February 23, 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that a modified Miranda warning was acceptable in FLORIDA, PETITIONER v. KEVIN DEWAYNE POWELL No. 08-1175.

The court found that police “Advice that a suspect has “the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of [the law enforcement officers’] questions,” and that he can invoke this right “at any time . . . during th[e] interview,” sat¬isfies Miranda.”.

In reviewing the facts, the court stated “After arresting respondent Powell, but before questioning him, Tampa Police read him their standard Miranda form, stating, inter alia: “You have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of our questions” and “[y]ou have the right to use any of these rights at any time you want during this interview.” Powell then admitted he owned a handgun found in a police search.”

In reviewing the Miranda calculation the Supreme court stated “Miranda requires that a suspect “be warned prior to any questioning . . . that he has the right to the presence of an attorney.” 384 U.S., at 479. This Miranda warning addresses the Court’s par¬ticular concern that “[t]he circumstances surrounding in-custody in¬terrogation can operate very quickly to overbear the will of one merely made aware of his privilege [to remain silent] by his interro¬gators.” Id., at 469. Responsive to that concern, the Court stated, as “an absolute prerequisite to interrogation,” that an individual held for questioning “must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during inter¬rogation.” Id., at 471. While the warnings prescribed by Miranda are invariable, this Court has not dictated the words in which the es¬sential information must be conveyed. See, e.g., California v. Pry-sock, 453 U.S. 355, 359. In determining whether police warnings were satisfactory, reviewing courts are not required to “examine [them] as if construing a will or defining the terms of an easement. The inquiry is simply whether the warnings reasonably ‘conve[y] to [a suspect] his rights as required by Miranda.’ ” Duckworth v. Eagan, 492 U.S. 195, 203. Pp. 7–9.
The warnings Powell received satisfy this standard. By in¬forming Powell that he had “the right to talk to a lawyer before an- swering any of [their] questions,” the Tampa officers communicated that he could consult with a lawyer before answering any particular question. And the statement that Powell had “the right to use any of [his] rights at any time [he] want[ed] during th[e] interview” con¬firmed that he could exercise his right to an attorney while the inter¬rogation was underway. In combination, the two warnings reasona¬bly conveyed the right to have an attorney present, not only at the outset of interrogation, but at all times. To reach the opposite con¬clusion, i.e., that the attorney would not be present throughout the interrogation, the suspect would have to imagine the counterintuitive and unlikely scenario that, in order to consult counsel, he would be obliged to exit and reenter the interrogation room between each query.

Powell suggests that today’s holding will tempt law en¬forcement agencies to end-run Miranda by amending their warnings to introduce ambiguity. But, as the Federal Government explains, it is in law enforcement’s own interest to state warnings with maxi¬mum clarity in order to reduce the risk that a court will later find the advice inadequate and therefore suppress a suspect’s statement. The standard warnings used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation are admirably informative, but the Court declines to declare their precise formulation necessary to meet Miranda’s requirements. Different words were used in the advice Powell received, but they communi¬cated the same message.”


The Supreme Court essentially refused to recognize a precise formulation but instead found that it was the message understood by the recipient, not the precise words that lies at the heart at the Miranda concept and rule.

Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

About Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

Ronald A. Sellon is a licensed Attorney in the state of Massachusetts and U.S. District Court, Massachusetts as well as a Sergeant with a Municipal Police Department and U.S. military Veteran. Additionally, he has taught Criminal Procedure at the Massachusetts State Police Academy in New Braintree and has written a text on Criminal Procedure for police field training officer programs. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, was a 2008 recipient of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police (Mass C.O.P.) Presidents award and holds a Bachelors Degree in Law Enforcement, a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice Administration, and a Juris Doctor Law Degree. Questions related to content material may be directed to
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2 Responses to Modified Miranda warnings OK’d by Supreme Court

  1. Pingback: Lawyers presence negates Miranda « Massachusetts Police Legal News

  2. Pingback: Modified Miranda Warnings part 2 « Massachusetts Police Legal News

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