Summerville Citizens Police Academy — Rights and responsibilities of suspects, police

  • Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A.M. Sheehan/Journal Scene Cpt. Michael J. Donoghue

Class 10

Tonight we are pleased to see Captain Michael J. Donoghue back to finish his segment on interrogations. We are also looking forward to hearing from Judge Whittington about Judicial Systems. The Order part of Law and.

He starts out by addressing the remainder of his first class with us.

He notes that an officer must first assure the legal validity of his or her core transaction. What does that mean? The reason for the initial interaction between the officer and the subject must be legally supportable.

“For example,” he says, “Can an officer stop a vehicle on December 16, 2009 for tags that say they expire in November 2009?”

The answer, it seems, is “no.”

Once an officer initiates a stop – be it blue lights, verbal, or physical – the action is deemed, by law, to be custodial in nature. Consequently, if there is no solid legal premise then the stop has no merit. Any subsequent use of force also has no merit and could open the department to legal action.

Why is the answer “no” to the stop for outdated tags? Because in South Carolina you have 30 days from the end of the month in which the tags expire, to register. The DMV may assess a late fee, but there is no legal merit for stopping the vehicle until after December 30.

Donoghue says the police must train themselves to keep anger and adrenaline under control.

Using profanity toward law enforcement is protected under the First Amendment, not that it is recommended.

He says officers need to thoroughly know the law. Good policing, he says, is common sense, a sense of humor and compassion.

He now goes into interrogations telling us that a confession is the most valuable piece of evidence law enforcement can get.

“But,” he cautions, “we must play by the rules.”

He discusses Miranda v. Arizona. Ernesto Miranda, 23, had a ninth grade education and medical problems. He wore glasses. He was put in a line-up with three other men of Hispanic heritage, none of whom wore glasses, all of whom were much older than Miranda.

Then he was questioned for two hours after which he confessed.

“Constitutional rights,” says Donoghue, “attach prior to any custodial interrogation.

In order to waive those rights, a subject must be able to knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waive them. For example, the subject would have to be sober, mentally capable, not under threat of any sort, etc.

A subject’s age, schooling, mental ability and physical condition must meet this standard, says Donoghue.

Police are limited in what tricks and promises they can use. A subject’s criminal justice experience [how often have they been arrested] comes into play, as does any language barrier and any coercion or duress they are subjected to.

Basically, the suspect has many rights and the police must proceed with caution and care not to trample those rights.

Donoghue is finished with his portion of the class. Unfortunately, for us, Judge Whittington has been unable to make it, so we get out early.

We are disappointed.

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