January 26, 2004 - Associated Press

Supreme Court Reaffirms Miranda Rights

By Gina Holland, AP

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court reaffirmed Monday that police must tell indicted people of their rights before starting interrogations.

Justices ruled 9-0 in favor of a Nebraska man who claimed he was tricked into talking to officers who came to his house to arrest him on drug charges.

The decision relieved civil liberties groups, which worried that the court was poised to roll back some of the protections in its landmark 1966 Miranda ruling which led to the familiar refrain beginning "You have the right to remain silent."

The American Bar Association was among groups that urged the court to clarify that people facing charges must be told they have a right to see an attorney.

The ruling will discourage officers from trying to elicit confessions from off-guard suspects facing charges.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing for the majority, said that the officers violated John J. Fellers' constitutional rights by deliberately eliciting information during a 15-minute interview in his home, without telling him he could see an attorney.

Monday's decision was the first of four Miranda rulings expected from the Supreme Court this year.

Justices dodged a broader ruling sought by Fellers, who argued that a second jailhouse interview was tainted by the improper initial questioning. The Supreme Court said a lower court should reconsider that issue, in light of the ruling that the first questioning was unconstitutional.

Fellers was sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison after being convicted of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine.

The case is Fellers v. United States, 02-6320.

Supreme Court on the Net: www.supremecourtus.gov

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