Most people in Minnesota understand what a Miranda warning is. When someone is taken into police custody as a suspect, law enforcement is required to inform that person of their constitutional rights, namely the right to keep silent. Sometimes people waive that right and this generally gives law enforcement the power to question that person without legal representation. Occasionally, however, a court may consider a person’s waiver invalid.
Lost in translation
Last year, a man in California was convicted for gun possession and the conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, according to The Huffington Post. The man spoke Spanish and his Miranda rights were read to him in Spanish. However, the translation was not quite correct. When the man was told that an attorney would be appointed for him, the detective made a mistake and used a different word which translated into English, meant “freedom of action.”
The man had then entered a guilty plea in return for a plea deal. However, due to the mix-up, an appeal court overturned the man’s convictions, pointing out that the faulty translation made the man’s waiver of his rights invalid. The ruling points out that it is important for people to understand what their rights are and if they do not speak English, they are still entitled to an accurate translation in their own language.
The Miranda rights used today are the result of a case known as Miranda v. Arizona when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is not only necessary for people to be informed of their rights, but that they must also understand what they have been told. A 2007 study points out that a Miranda waiver can be considered invalid by the court if the person is determined to have a diminished capacity for understanding his or her rights.
If a person claims that he did not understand his Miranda rights, the court generally appoints psychological and mental experts to assess the person. During the assessment, the person can be evaluated using the following factors:
- Did the person understand the function of the Miranda rights?
- Did the person have the ability to mentally reason within himself the consequences of waiving his rights?
- Did the person understand the meaning of the rights spoken to him?
For example, if a person with a low IQ is arrested for theft, but does not understand what the word, evidence, is than it could be proven that the person did not fully understand what law enforcement was telling him. In such a case, a court could rule that the Miranda waiver was invalid.
When people are facing a criminal charge, it is important for them to have a complete understanding of the judicial system and their rights. An experienced attorney can provide them with that education.