Obama plan would delay probable cause hearings to allow uninterrupted interrogations

By Stephen C. Webster
Saturday, May 15, 2010 12:26 EDT
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In a move that’s being heavily criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Obama administration is planning to ask Congress to delay terror suspects’ probable cause hearings as a way to allow interrogators additional time for questioning before the individual is informed of their rights or shown to a judge.

Standing law requires suspects be read their Miranda warning — the age-old “right to remain silent” in the presence of officers — and be presented to a judge to establish probable cause for imprisonment within six hours of detaining them, unless a judge is unavailable: a fact that did not go unnoticed by Talk Left.

“Just a year ago, the Supreme Court decided Corley v. U.S.,” the blog noted, quoting the ruling as saying:

Under the rule as revised by §3501©, a district court with a suppression claim must find whether the defendant confessed within six hours of arrest (unless a longer delay was “reasonable considering the means of transportation and the distance to be traveled to the nearest available [magistrate]”). If the confession came within that period, it is admissible, subject to the other Rules of Evidence, so long as it was “made voluntarily and … the weight to be given [it] is left to the jury.” Ibid. If the confession occurred before presentment and beyond six hours, however, the court must decide whether delaying that long was unreasonable or unnecessary under the McNabb-Mallory cases, and if it was, the confession is to be suppressed.

Generally, if a judge is not available within six hours, law enforcement is required to bring a suspect before one for an initial hearing within the first 48 hours of imprisoning the individual.

However, that standard could soon be altered if Obama’s legal advisers get their way, according to The New York Times. Anonymous administration sources told the paper that Obama plans on asking Congress to allow an extension to the period of time before a terrorism suspect must be presented to a judge, giving interrogators a wider window to act.

The Times added that the rule would be included in legislation proposed by Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking to cut a loophole around the application of Miranda rights in terrorism cases.

The paper suggested that if approved, Congress would merely exempt terrorism cases from such legal requirements.

“It’s highly troubling that the Obama administration might propose to lengthen the time in which a potential defendant would come before a judge,”ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero told the Times. “Both proposals would severely undercut the Obama administration’s assertion that they believe in the rule of law.”

“It’s ironic that this is one right even the Bush Administration didn’t try and tinker with, and its our Democratic president showing so little respect for the rule of law,” Talk Left blogger Jeralyn concluded.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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