Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You Have the Right to Remain Silent...But Only if You Tell Me You Wish To Do So

If you’ve ever seen Law and Order, or any other cop show on TV for that matter, or have yourself been read your rights as a U.S. citizen, then you know you have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, etc. These rights are commonly known as our Miranda warnings. Well how would you feel if you suddenly felt your rights ripped away from you? Probably not too great.

This is a distinct possibility. The Supreme Court has examined these warnings and made several key revisions to them. According to the ruling, there will now be changes to the way that lawyers, suspects and police officers interact. In essence it is a regression of the rights that we Americans have become so used to experiencing.

These warnings arose out of a 1966 case in which a man, Ernesto Miranda, had been accused of rape and kidnapping. The ruling required officers to explain the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer; if you could not afford a lawyer then one would be appointed to you.

The court has been becoming more conservative over the decades since the Miranda ruling, according to an AP article. Also explained in this article is the idea that the court is “doing everything it can to ease the admissibility of confessions that police wriggle out of suspects."

There is an issue in the wording in Florida that made it unclear that a lawyer was actually allowed to be present during police questioning. However, Justice Gisnberg did not object to the wording, saying all the essential information was there. Perhaps officers don’t want their suspects to know a lawyer can be present during questioning so as to make their jobs easier and get more information out of their suspects. The lack of clarity in the wording of the information sounds like an intimidation factor to me. I think the authorities prefer a populace that is comfortably unaware of the rights they are entitled to so there will be no revolt or questioning of authority.

Additionally, it is now a fact that if a suspect wishes to remain silent then they must express this wish verbally. Justice Sotomayor explains, “suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so."

James Pasco, who is a member of the National Fraternal Order of Police has said he thinks what these alterations to the Miranda warnings will do is to allow police to get confessions out of suspects more easily.

That idea really worries me. I think what we need to do as Americans is to fight for our rights. We have become too complacent with our government over time. Our country was founded by people who stood up to unfair and harsh rule, and I think our generation would do well to follow in our forefathers’ footsteps. If we don’t stand up for our rights now, then before we know it we won’t have any rights left to fight for.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Harsher Restrictions for Drilling

Several days ago the House approved a bill that will force safer regulations on offshore drilling. In addition, this bill will also enforce new fees on oil and gas production and remove a federal cap on economic liability for oil spills. This bill is in response to the disastrous Gulf oil spill that happened back in April.

Naturally there was disagreement over this bill between Republicans and Democrats. What this Bill will do is ban companies with serious environmental or workplace violations in the past seven years from being granted new permits for offshore drilling. The issue found by many Republicans and even some Democrats with high interest in oil fear that these regulations will hurt the U.S. economy. They believe it will take away countless U.S. jobs and raise energy prices.

This issue has not yet reached the Senate. According to a New York Times article the bill would:

- remove the $75 million cap on economic damages to be paid after big oil spills,

- increase the financial responsibility demonstrated by offshore operators to 300 million dollars,

- and finally create “conservation” fees on oil and natural gas that has been extracted from federally owned land or water

This was particularly disturbing to Rep. Doc Hastings, the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee. He believes that the removal of the liability cap could be extremely detrimental to small and medium-sized drillers.

With this said I actually think this bill is a great step in the right direction. With the number of oil spills occurring offshore lately there had to be steps taken to try and ensure that such spills cease to happen. The environment is so destroyed each time there is a spill, not to mention we lose more and more of our oil. Big companies should be held responsible for their actions in these spills. And while I don’t want to see smaller drilling companies hit, we really need to have the safety of our environment and the preservation of our resources as a number one concern.