A federal judge has thrown out statements made by four men suspected of smuggling cocaine through Port Everglades, Fla., because the Department of Homeland Security used a faulty Miranda rights warning form, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The blunder with the federal form was identical to one that could undercut at least 24 cases handled by the Broward Sheriff’s Office: the forms did not advise suspects of their right to have an attorney during questioning.
Officials would not say how many cases the deficient federal forms could affect. Representatives for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch of Homeland Security (ICE) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami declined to answer that question and the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., did not return calls. U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow ruled that statements made by four of five men accused in the drug case cannot be used against them in trial because of the error. The fifth man was read his rights correctly from a U.S. Customs service form. The Homeland Security form included the words “You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions” and “If you decide to answer questions without a lawyer present, you have the right to stop answering at any time.” But it did not mention the constitutional right to an attorney during questioning.