Supreme Court Preserves 'Right to Remain Silent' in Forceful 7-2 Decision

June 26, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Saying that Congress “may not supersede” its Constitutional rulings, the the Supreme Court today voted 7 to 2 to uphold the symbol and substance of the Miranda warning, which requires police to warn suspects in custody of their rights prior to questioning.

“The ACLU has always believed, and the court today agreed, that effective law enforcement does not and should not depend on keeping people ignorant of their rights,” said Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

Today’s ruling in U.S. v. Dickerson strikes down a 1999 decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia saying that a 1968 congressional statute effectively overruled the Supreme Court’s decision requiring the Miranda warnings.

In its ruling today, Shapiro said, the court affirmed three essential points: that the Miranda rule is Constitutional; that Congress has no power to overrule the Supreme Court’s interpretations of the Constitution; and that in declining the invitation to overrule Miranda, the Court recognizes that the rule works for both defendants and the police.

The “you have a right to remain silent” warning has become a standard element of police procedure since the Supreme Court’s 1966 decision in Miranda v. Arizona.

Indeed, said Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, writing for the majority, “Miranda has become embedded in routine police practice to the point where the warnings have become part of our national culture.”

Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented.

The case is U.S. v. Dickerson, No. 97-4750. The ACLU’s friend-of-the-court brief was prepared by volunteer lawyers Jonathan L. Abram, Jason C. Chipman, Lily M. Garcia, E. Desmond Hogan and Stephen M. Kuperberg of the Washington, D.C. law firm of Hogan & Hartson, and Professor Stephen Schulhofer working with Steven R. Shapiro of the ACLU and ACLU General Counsels Vivian Berger and Susan Herman.

The Supreme Court’s decision can be found at:

The ACLU’s brief in the case can be found at:

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