Monday, October 14, 2002

Babelizing Miranda

I was having so much fun with the Lost in Translation page which had been posted over at Metafilter that I thought I'd share it over here. The page allows you to enter a phrase in English, and then it translates it into another language, then back into English, and so on for five different languages, finally returning a result in English that often looks little like the original. The question, though, was what phrase to use.

One phrase that's very important to understand is a Miranda warning. The exact wording of the warning varies from state to state, but the basic ideas behind it remain the same in each. Not understanding a Miranda warning can be a problem, so I thought I would also look a little at how comprehension of Miranda rights might be viewed from a psychological and legal stance.

A Miranda warning used in Oregon:
1. You have the right to remain silent.

2. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

3. If you are under the age of 18, anything you say can be used against you in a juvenile court prosecution for a juvenile offense and can also be used against you in an adult court criminal prosecution if the juvenile court decides that you are to be tried as an adult.

4. You have the right to talk to an attorney before answering any questions.

5. You have the right to have your attorney present during the questioning.

6. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you without cost, before or during questioning, if you desire.

7. Do you understand these rights?

I have read or have had read to me the above explanation of my constitutional rights and I understand those rights.
The Oregon warning babelized:
1. They have the right to continue being calm.

2. Something, that one you are used legend he to being able and of the meeting of the short circuits you in one.

3. If you he are under age of 18, something, the one that the legend that he inscatoliate to be to her also used can use of the meeting you in a young continuation of the cut for an action and young person of the meeting you in a criminal continuation of the cut of the adult, if the young person is decided the cut that you must be you you examine to him you have taste of the adult to him.

4. They have the right to before speak with the ways the a that you answer all the questions.

5. They have the right to have his ways during the interrogation.

6. If you he cannot attribute ways, one demands it without costs, he emits or during the interrogation, if it is wished.

7. He include/understand these lines?

I read or I read with me my constitutional communication the here excessive line and include/understand these lines of.
In a fairly recent Delaware case (pdf), we see that the Court bases its determination on whether Miranda warnings were understood in a totality of the circumstances test. One aspect of the opinion looks at whether psychological tests were administered, and of what type. In this particular case, the test applied was Professor Thomas Grisso's Instruments for Assessing, Understanding, and Appreciation of Miranda Rights.

Another issue that is often raised is the competency of juveniles to understand Miranda warnings. A page from the Washington State Bar News called Juveniles’ Waiver of Miranda Rights: Competence and Evaluation delves into the problems that situation presents and examines how Professor Grisso's tests are used in this context.
First, the Comprehension of Miranda Rights asks the individual to paraphrase the four warnings to assess his or her general level of comprehension of the warnings. Second, the Comprehension of Miranda Rights-Recognition asks the subject to identify other statements that are "the same as" or "different from" Miranda warnings. This second test addresses the difficulty that some subjects may understand adequately but lack the verbal ability to express what they know.

A third instrument, the Comprehension of Miranda Vocabulary, assesses the subject’s grasp of the vocabulary used in the warnings. This instrument aids in the interpretation of low scores on the two comprehension tests. Fourth, the Function of Rights in Interrogation assesses the youth’s appreciation of the meanings of Miranda warnings in the context of the legal process.
There is also the possiblity of involving parents and guardians when the comprehension of Miranda rights by juveniles is a question, and a Vanderbilt Law Review article proposing to to "strengthen juvenile Miranda rights" by Requiring Parental Presence in Custodial Interrogations goes into detail on that subject.