No Precise Phrasing Required In Miranda Warnings: High Court


Police officers are not required to use exact, cookie-cutter phrasing while advising criminal suspects of their right to have a lawyer present with them throughout a police interrogation, says a Supreme Court ruling described by the Christian Science Monitor. The 7-to-2 decision sought to clarify the rule requiring issuance of so-called Miranda warnings to suspects who are about to be questioned by police.

Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the key is that the suspect be given adequate advice covering all the Miranda protections. “The four warnings Miranda requires are invariable, but this court has not dictated the words in which the essential information must be conveyed,” Ginsburg wrote. The question in Florida v. Powell was whether police gave enough notice to Kevin Powell that he was entitled to have a lawyer physically present with him in the interrogation room as the questions were being asked. In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said, “This is, I believe, the first time the court has approved a warning which, if given its natural reading, entirely omitted an essential element of a suspect's rights.”

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