“The UT San Diego (more commonly known as the “Union Tribune”) Newspaper on September 12, 2012 in its online and digital edition reported an arrest of a man for arson for what could be the source of a series of many recent fires in San Diego in dumpsters, a coffee cart and at least one automobile in Downtown, Hillcrest and North Park. The arrest and apprehension stemmed from a Security Officer observing the defendant “trying to set fire to a (wood) pallet.”
It is important to note, however, the mere fact the individual was taken into custody, to be held and/or detained for what appears to be a criminal offense should not in and of itself be the basis for one to conclude he is guilty of the charges in question or any other crime. Perhaps a person of prudent sense may have reason to believe the crime of arson was taking place in the case of the wood pallet, but the true and complete set of facts and circumstances must be known in order to justify more than a suspicion. And, we do not convict people in the United States on the basis of a notion or belief; instead, the prosecution must present and establish evidence beyond any doubt to obtain a conviction.
The article noted the police were “questioning” the man in connection with the other fires; however, a whole panoply of rights must first come into play. No one can lawfully be interrogated while in custody without being informed and admonished of their Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution against self-incrimination and their right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment. This is more commonly known as the Miranda warning. While the police may interrogate a person in custody, they cannot use that person’s statements and admissions to incriminate him in a later criminal trial. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1966 in the landmark case of Miranda vs. Arizona, established a set of guidelines that require law enforcement prior to an interrogation to (1) clearly and explicitly inform a defendant so he is adequately and fully informed of his right to remain silent; (2) that anything he says can and will be used against him in Court; (3) that he has the right to consult with a lawyer; (4) that the attorney would be present during any questioning by law enforcement; (5) if he cannot afford a lawyer, one would be provided to represent him at no cost; and for the warning to be deemed proper and, therefore, meaningful, (6) the suspect must be asked if he understands these rights. Because of various levels of education and to avoid any ambiguity, it has often been argued by criminal defense counsel that an affirmative answer of “yes” to each of the elements of the above warring must occur. Some states further provide that a juvenile be advised of his right to remain silent unless his parent or guardian is present.”