What Are The Miranda Rights of Students and Faculty on Campus?

Duck Law uW iconA Relative Writes:

 “You mention Miranda rights on your recent post. Were you recently arrested, or is some officer of law about to arrest you?”

For some reason, this relative decided I must have been arrested … even though the post dealt with lawyers misusing the law by pretending not to be lawyers.

Unfortunately the answer is that lawyers are far less regulated than cops. This is especially true of the tribe of lawyers called “litigators” ,, many of whom are seen by other lawyers as thugs.  These lawyers demean their profession  because they use their legal knowledge not to serve the law but, like cops misusing their badges, to intimidate people who can only be called victims.

Most of us have experience with lawyers acting like thugs.  Next time you install software, read the agreement before proceeding.  Can you understand it?  Is it intimidating?   On a more personal level have you ever gotten a letter from some thug attorney warning you of consequences if you do not pay some bill you do not owe?  I once had that experience with a credit card company’s team of lawyers.  They only desisted after I personalized the matter by corresponding with the lawyers and then pointed out to their bosses the phenomenal money they were wasting by spending moneys on legal correspondence.

I have had sad personal experience with legal thuggery,.  I have spent a lot of the last two years in court, dealing with the family feud I have written about here. Once, in a courtroom, I actually saw Lawyer crucified on wall iconone of these litigators … a handsome, very overly well dressed male, vault the railing  in front of the Judge and stride over to my attorney, a female.  The thug came within an inch of doing an NFL chest bump.  When I asked about this weird behavior, I was told this sort of histrionics were normal behavior by litigators …. a way of making a point.  This sort of abusive behavior is not limited to men acting vs., women.  On another occasion a Catholic litigator, trying to make a point about a family feud in a Jewish family, threw himself against a wall and posed as if he were Jesus on the cross.

Similar behavior among faculty or by a cop would be a cause for being fired.  Leaving aside my self righteous outrage, as a civilian I have as much reason to be afraid of a police officer or abusive attorney as if they were abusive drill sergeants in boot camp or an Israeli patrol in Ramallah.   

Back at my relative, his question was a good one.  I have had one arrest where Miranda became an issue and, in that case the cops did misbehave. I will write more about this at another time. More relevant to the question is the abuse I have seen at the University of the underlying principles of  Miranda, that is the Fifth Amendment.

So what “Miranda rights” do students and faculty have? First things first,  a University Police Officer has the same obligations as the ones on TV.  If a UW cop arrests you,  she or he must “read you your rights.”

I assume you already know that. Much more important is for you to know that you have rights on campus that go beyond what the cops recite when they recite your “Miranda Rights.”

To begin, you should know that the term “Miranda Rights” is misleading.  The proper term is “Miranda Rules,”  a set of rules ordered by the US Supreme Court to protect citizens against violations of their right against self incrimination.  The right against self incrimination has been with Americans since the passage of the Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that no persons shall be compelled to be a witness against himself… This guarantee  applies to the states and has been interpreted to  apply to any instance where the government attempts to force a citizen to incriminate himself or herself. The Miranda ruling is just one example of this right.

Miranda came to be because police officers were using their power of arrest to coerce statements that were self incriminating.  The right, however, is not limited to people in police custody. The fifth amendment goes further  forming  the basis for other liberties such as the right to remain silent and the right to an  attorney. Combined with the First Amendment,  the Fifth may also be seen as fundamental to academic freedoms since, in the United States, the concept of academic freedom  is derived from the guarantee of free speech under the First and the immunity to self incrimination of the Fifth Amendments.  These parts of the bill of Rights  protect American faculty and students  from intrusions that could lead to loss of the rights of students and faculty to free learning, teaching, and research.

Application of these rights to campus raises several questions:

1. Does the Right extend to civil law?  Can you be forced to testify if there is no way to claim a possibility of criminal action? Who determines if such a possibility exists?

2. Our campus has a hundred or more lawyers who have judicial – like powers even though they are not employed as police or by the Attorney General.  Are these officers of the court bound by the same rules as police officers? If an attorney interrogates some one and does not inform the person of their fifth amendment rights, can the results of the interrogation be used as evidence in a civil or criminal matter?  Can you be fired or expelled for what you say?

3.  Is there any penalty against a police officer or a lawyer who violates someone’s first amendment rights? Do these penalties apply on campus?

4. Given the cost of hiring an attorney,  can the University be required to provide legal representation if there is an issue of self incrimination? 

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