Miranda Rights Exception, 2001 USA Patriot Act Spark Bombing Suspect Debate

By Hilda Scott , Apr 22, 2013 07:46 AM EDT

When law enforcement officials captured the second suspect wanted in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing, he wasn't read his Miranda rights. This sparked a debate among the public, including human rights activists. Not reading a citizen the Miranda warning after a police arrest is a violation of the Bill of Rights. There is an exception to the Miranda law when there is a threat to public safety. The Patriot Act also has laws regarding suspects connected to acts of terrorism.

The "public safety" exception of the Miranda rights lets law enforcement to interrogate suspects without warning, but within limits. According to Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, officials chose not to read the suspect,  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his rights under the "public safety" exception clause of the Miranda.

"Every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights. The public safety exception should be read narrowly. It applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule," American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony D. Romero said in a statement Saturday.

The bombing that took place at the Boston Marathon was considered an act of terrorism. Referring to the Patriot Act, Tsarnaev would be considered an "enemy combatant" since he is allegedly associated with an act of terror. Since the attack on the World Trade Center on Sep. 11, 2001, there have been a number of changes made to the Bill of Rights to combat terrorism.  According to the Patriot Act, suspects in connection with terrorism are handled differently.

New laws were instituted to continue with the war on terrorism under the Patriot Act as a direct result of the 9/11 attack. USA PATRIOT stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. The Patriot Act went into effect almost immediately after the 9/11 attack. Congress approved these new laws right away for the sake of fighting terrorism. Under the Patriot Act, to combat terrorism, the U.S. government can jail any American citizen for any amount of time without a trial.

The Patriot Act pretty much nullifies some of the amendments found in the Bill of Rights including the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment states that a person can't be charged with a crime unless indicted by a grand jury. It also protects the person from being forced into incriminating themselves, hence the term "I plead the 5th". The Miranda rights let criminals suspects know that these rights of exist, within the first line "You have the right to remain silent".

In the case of the Boston bombing, Tsarnaev may be considered an "enemy combatant" as defined by the Patriot Act.

"The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans. The suspect, based upon his actions, clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status.  We do not want this suspect to remain silent," said a statement from senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and congressman Peter King.

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