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Psychology professor researches Miranda Rights
Caitlyn Jones / Contributing Writer
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
These words are familiar to any person who has been arrested or seen the TV show “Cops,” but after research from a UNT professor, the way these words are said to juveniles may change.
UNT psychology professor Richard Rogers received more than $800,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation in September to continue his research on juvenile Miranda Warnings.
“The majority of jurisdictions actually use the same warnings for kids as they do for adults,” Rogers said. “The goal is to explain things to kids in a language that they can understand.”
Rogers has been researching the comprehensibility of more than 800 variations of the Miranda Warning, the statements said or read to a person when they are being arrested. These statements are used by county, state and federal jurisdictions across the United States.
This became law in 1966 by the Supreme Court case of “Miranda v. Arizona.” The Supreme Court ruled that since Ernesto Miranda was not notified of his right to remain silent before being coerced into a confession, there could be no case against him.
The warning can range from 50 to 100 words and also from a third grade-reading level to post-college reading level, Richards said. A post-college level warning would have 30 to 40 words in a sentence and two-to-three dependent clauses.
“We’ve collected the survey data, but now we’re actually beginning to evaluate juveniles in terms of their comprehension,” Rogers said.
Roger’s research won him the 2011 Award for Distinguished Contributions for Research in Public Policy from the American Psychological Associations and has also been cited in several briefs for the Supreme Court case “Florida v. Powell” in 2010, in which a Tampa Bay man argued that his Miranda rights were not properly conveyed to him in a way that he could understand. The Supreme Court ruled against him.
The American Bar Association also adopted a policy in February 2010 to urge local, state and federal legislatures to develop simplified Miranda wording for juveniles.
Some police departments were not so forthcoming with information for Roger’s research.
“We were told, more or less, that we’ll have blood on our hands by doing this research,” Rogers said. “I think that if we have the system, it should be fair. If you’re 12 years old and I’m reading you something that requires a college education, something about that is just inherently unfair.”
The warning that the Denton Police Department uses contains 96 words and five parts. The same version is used for in-custody questioning of juveniles, said Ryan Grelle, Denton Police Department media relations Officer.
The Denton Police Department has not had any problems regarding juveniles and confusion with Miranda Warnings as far as Grelle knows, he said.
Students who have been arrested tend to tune out when Miranda Warnings are too long or wordy.
“When you’re in that situation, you’re so stressed that you aren’t processing what they’re saying,” said Spencer Merryman, pre-communication design sophomore, who was once arrested on suspicion of reckless driving. “You’re just thinking about what’s going to happen now and how you can get out of it.”
For more information and to read the full Miranda Warning, go to www.mirandawarning.org.