If city obeys Miranda rule, it sharpens prosecutor Pinkston’s blade

Rob Simmons is the spokesman for the Chattanooga police department. (Photo WTVC Newschannel 9)

Rob Simmons is the spokesman for the Chattanooga police department. (Photo WTVC Newschannel 9)

Chattanooga police department has a policy in its “Arrest procedures” manual requiring officers to read people their Miranda rights when arrested.

The departmental rule is based on a directive in the 1966 case Arizona vs Miranda that is a pro-government, pro-state rule, but one still that gives a benefit to members of the public.

By David Tulis / Noogaradio 92.7

It appears that the department is unwilling to discuss with members of the public its practices. A query sent to the spokesman, Rob Simmon,s has not been answered. The department routinely injures its prosecutorial efforts by refusing to Miranda rights to defendants.

Miranda is pro-government in that the justices allow abusive policing to continue, but require that citizens be given a warning about their right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present before responding to any officer’s questions. The right to remain silent is important.

By definition, law enforcement is a state act against members of its own population. Every arrest is an accusation by the state against a member of the citizenry. That’s why in Chattanooga every case is styled State of Tennessee v. John Doe. The word “versus” means the state is adversary, it is against, it is the accuser. The state is the belligerent against you, the ordinary citizen.

Fellowship of the finger

The police department of Chattanooga and the state district attorney in Hamilton County, Neal Pinkston, share in a fellowship of the finger.

That is the finger of accusation, against you, offender, violator, criminal, scofflaw, malefactor, party guilty of a malum in se (an evil or wrong in itself) or guilty of a mala prohibita  offense (a wrong by definition or law, not inherently evil).

How Miranda aids policing 

How do we get the police department to take the trouble to obey the Miranda rule that accommodates the police enterprise despite the people’s protections under the constitution? And why is that important to us?

I suggest that a concerned member of the public address the mayor’s office and the city council in light of Miranda’s program in perspective.

Here’s the argument that should fit in a 3 minute slot at the end of every council meeting on Tuesday night.

You in city government, if you plan to enforce statute within the city limits, should studiously obey the Miranda rule. Your agents should do so because it is more likely that you will guarantee convictions and give yourself some relief at the exclusionary hearing when the defense team asks the judge to throw out evidence against the accused.

In criminal cases defendants often try to exclude evidence based on the unlawful of its having been collected

A defendant who has not been properly mirandized can use Miranda and the failure to recite the warning as a reason to exclude something. If the officer follows the high court rule and Mirandizes the defendant, the state has a better prospect of winning its case.


“Although these warnings must be given only before interrogation takes place, it is good practice to give them immediately after arrest, thereby making any offhand remarks or other voluntary comments by the offender admissible in court,” the policy manual says.

Don’t city hall and city council want more convictions rather than fewer (assuming, of course, that city police departments have authority to enforce state criminal law)?

The pro-government argument for 100 percent Miranda obedience to opinion and departmental rule is that if the city wants officers to not waste their own time nor that of courts, and it that if it wants prosecutor Mr. Pinkston to win, make sure cops read Miranda rights right off the bat.

To restate: If cops are to be successful in their mission of law enforcement, it is vital that Miranda be read instantly when an arrest occurs. That way nothing that the bad guy says can be excluded. Nothing can be contested. He was warned, and if he speaks or gives away any evidence such as a driver’s license proof of insurance or other data, he does so voluntarily. A properly Mirandized defendant who gives away the store, it should be argued, gives away the store voluntarily, after having been properly notified, pursuant to the Miranda public policy.

Mayor Andy Berke should order today that every defendant, the moment he is arrested, be mirandized according to his own rules as given ministerially by Mr. Fletcher, the former chief in his manual updates.

After all, aren’t we for a strong and true state — aren’t we for success in law enforcement? Are not we against frustrating the officer in court by having his arrest thrown out for lack of Miranda?

The bigger problem

The question is, when does an arrest take place?

Here is the wiggle room between the officer, the man with the finger, and the citizen, now a subject and a suspect. A line is drawn by the Miranda rule somewhere between these two parties. The question is is that line close to the defendant or far away from him? If it is far away from him, and nearer to the officer, then there’s a lot of conversation that can take place outside Miranda that can be used to impugn the citizen and give the officer reasonable suspicion or the tougher requirement of probable cause. If the line is near to the defendant, and he is warned instantly, he will be more on his guards and stand his ground.

Tennessee Supreme Court cases argue that the line should be right at the defendant’s toe. The moment he is arrested he should be mirandized. And arrest takes place the moment the blue lights come on, according to major decisions as cited in the legal encyclopedia, Tennessee jurisprudence, under the heading “Arrest.” The major cases are State of Tennessee v. Raspberry, State of Tennessee v. Garcia. The moment the blue lights come on, is the instant Miranda begins to apply.

That means for every stop, the Miranda warning should be the first thing the citizen hears the officer’s lips.

The first thing.

Rather than, “Hello, sir. Do you know why I stopped you?” the following: “Sir, you are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court.”

City council, speaking on behalf of the people, should inform the executive branch of city government that the people deserve their protections under Miranda. The city council should favor the innocent member of the public, as well as the guilty, by having that line be drawn close to the citizen, as opposed to far away from him.

First, outrage; then, relief

It is a political stunt for elected officials to put people who are their constituents under arrest and not tell them about it. Respect for Miranda as a policy the 500-officer Chattanooga police department officers would have the salubrious effect of reducing accusatory encounters — dismantling the ill effects of the fellowship of the finger. Strict adherence to Miranda would do so by first creating an outrage. The arrest of so many people — who now know they are under arrest — would create public outrage.

Miranda brings publicity to the arrest and citation machine, and would bring calls for its reduction, its scaling back. People are secretly arrested without them realizing it, and as long as they are ignorant of their Miranda and arrest situations, they won’t demand reform of the policing enterprise.

Ignoring Miranda is good PR for city incumbent government.

Voter backlash against the executive branch’s strict obedience to the Miranda regime could reduce these encounters by 75 percent to 95 percent.

Growing disenchantment with policing could also help other problems facing Hamilton County’s judicial-industrial complex, such as the dour fact that 25 percent of inmates in the county jail have mental problems that only worsen during their incarceration under the city’s cash bond system.

Arrested in TN? Your right to a magistrate


  1. John Ballinger
  2. David Tulis
  3. John Ballinger

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.