Thursday, February 25, 2010

Quit Being Coy - Just Ask the Suspect if He is Willing to Waive His Rights?

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals released its opinion in State v. Joseph, regarding the voluntariness of a statement.  In Joseph, the appellant argued that although he signed the rights warning card provided him by the San Antonio police officer, he did not waive his rights and, even if he did waive his rights, the waiver was not voluntary.

The Court went into considerable detail regarding Miranda and its relation to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure - particularly regarding when a statement is knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made.  In fact, if you are in need of a refresher on the law in this area, this case would be a good read.

However, the interesting portion I pulled from the case came in the second concurring opinion authored by Judge Cochran, which Judges Price, Johnson, and Holcomb joined, wherein they suggest a better practice for law enforcement in the area of Miranda warnings.
I write separately to note a rising trend in which Texas law-enforcement officers fail to explicitly ask a suspect if he is willing to give up his Miranda rights and speak to them. This question, if answered affirmatively, results in an express waiver. The failure to ask one additional, simple question has dramatically increased trial and appellate litigation and needlessly jeopardizes the admissibility of a suspect’s subsequently obtained statement.
Maybe officers don't want to know the answer to the additional question?  I doubt this plea from the Court results in any changes across the law enforcement community throughout the State.  We'll see.

Read majority opinion HERE.  Concurring opinion #1 (Keller) HERE.  Concurring opinion #2 (Cochran) HERE.