There are two decisions issued today of some relevance to military justice practitioners. One relates to Miranda and another to SORNA.
The Miranda rule remains intact in that the police must warn suspects of their rights and that an invocation of those rights by the suspect requires the police to stop questioning. Today’s decision involves what is needed to establish whether a suspect invoked or waived his rights.
To invoke the right to remain silent such that the police must stop, the suspect must say so expressly and unambiguously. On the other hand, a waiver of rights may be inferred from the facts that the suspect received the warnings, understood his rights, and responded to questions anyway.
The 5-4 ruling fell on predictable lines, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas joining Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. Justice Sotomayor wrote a dissent, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Stevens.
The opinion effectively aligns the exercise of the two rights – silence and counsel – into an unambiguous request. See Davis v. United States, as to the requirement to unambiguously request counsel.
The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, a 2007 law that requires sex offenders to register, does not apply to sex offenders whose interstate travel occurred before the Act went into effect.
This case has potential impact for military appellate counsel and their clients whose cases are still on appeal. A SORNA conviction presumably could result in additional court-martial action against an appellant on appellate leave pending completion of appellate review. Also, those whose cases are final but are released on parole or supervised release may be affected.
The Court instead accepts Carr’s interpretation that the statute does not impose liability unless a person, after becoming subject to SORNA’s registration requirements, travelsacross state lines and then fails to register.
Carr, Slip Op. at 1.