On Tuesday, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of softening Miranda rights, they also appear to have dealt a direct blow to the civil rights of non-English speakers.


“Man on the street” interviews, recently conducted by Spanish-language broadcaster Univision (http://www.univision.com/content/videoplayer.jhtml?cid=2423703) effectively made the case in point by asking a simple question to Latinos: Do you know your Miranda rights?

The answer by and large was “no”, and while it may have been predictable, I thought the Univision video touched on something that should be troubling to anyone who values the idea of equal protection under the law.

The Miranda revision requires suspects to speak in order to assert their right to remain silent. This begs a couple obvious questions: How can a non-English speaker tell an English-speaking officer that they wish to invoke their right to remain silent? And perhaps more importantly, what happens when a suspect – any suspect – doesn’t know they have those rights to begin with?

The basic tenets of the Miranda ruling that were established by the Supreme Court in the late 60's have been heard so frequently in movies, television shows and other expressions of popular culture that they would seem to have become absorbed into our collective consciousness. But perhaps for recent immigrant communities, as the Univision video would imply, “the right to remain silent” is not yet so ingrained.