The week beginning Monday, April 15, 2013 may be the most tumultuous in the history of Boston, Massachusetts, and it surely ranks high for the nation as a whole. With one suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing dead and the other in custody, much attention turned to reports that the FBI did not read the Miranda warnings, the well-known list of a criminal suspect's rights, to the surviving suspect upon or soon after his arrest. Law enforcement cited the "public safety doctrine" as the basis for its decision to withhold the Miranda warnings. This led to much discussion in the news media and elsewhere about the Miranda warnings, which demonstrated a wide range of interpretations of what the warnings are and what they mean. Criminal defense attorneys know that the Miranda warnings are a critical part of protecting criminal defendants' constitutional rights, such as the right against self-incrimination and the right to legal counsel. It is worth reviewing the obligations of law enforcement under Miranda and the rights that the warnings protect.
Police took the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, into custody the night of Friday, April 19. Authorities announced soon after that they had not read him the Miranda warnings, and they did not say when they intended to do so. They cited concerns about possible other dangers to the public and the need to question the suspect, which in turn led to some public concern that police would effectively suspend the due process rights of Tsarnaev, who is a naturalized United States citizen, in the interest of "national security." The news media reported on Sunday, April 21 that law enforcement officers had read Tsarnaev his rights.