BANGOR, Maine — Katherine Higgins thinks the 50th anniversary of the Miranda warning is the perfect time to update it to include a warning about social media.
Higgins, 17, of Glenburn won first prize last week in the Penobscot County Bar Association’s essay/art contest for high school students in Penobscot County.
The theme of this year’s Law Day contest was “Miranda: More than Words.” It asked students to consider whether and how the warning issued by police to criminal suspects in custody before being questioned should be changed. It is named for Ernesto Miranda, whose conviction after he was interrogated by Arizona police was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966.
“I think the Miranda warning should be updated to include social media,” Higgins, a senior at John Bapst Memorial High School, said after a brief awards ceremony at the Penobscot Judicial Center. “It is so much a part of everyone’s life now.”
Her painting shows the handcuffed hands of a person clutching a cellphone. Across the top is the first sentence of the Miranda warning: “You have the right to remain silent.”
To the subsequent sentence, the artist has added two words: “Anything you say or post can and will be held against you in a court of law.”
Alyssa Patterson, 15, of Holden wrote the winning 500-word essay as an assignment in a law class she is taking at Brewer High School, where she is a sophomore.
She wrote that the Miranda warning should be updated so suspects understand that if they choose to remain silent, their silence may not be used against them.
“Miranda was never informed of his right to remain silent and therefore felt as though he had to talk,” Patterson wrote. “In order to clear up this issue, a provision should be added that reads, ‘If you choose to remain silent, it cannot be used against you in the court of law.’”
She also said that the section of the warning related to having an attorney during questioning should be made clearer.
“Many people do not understand that police cannot continue to interrogate [you] after you have invoked the right to counsel,” she wrote. “Due to this, many suspects continue to answer questions after they have asked for an attorney, and any information gained by police during this time is considered voluntary and can be used in court.
“To remedy this, a provision should be added that reads, ‘If you choose to invoke your right to an attorney, you have the right to remain silent until that attorney arrives,’” Patterson, who wants to be a lawyer, said in her essay.
The bar association has offered the scholarship since 1997 in connection with Law Day, which has been celebrated on May 1 since 1958. The day was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a “day of national dedication to the principle of government under law.” During the height of the Cold War, Law Day was counterpoised against May Day as feted in the Soviet Union, according to the American Bar Association, which chooses the theme of the contest.
Winners received $500 as a scholarship, runners up were give $250 in scholarship funds, and honorable mentions were given $25 gift certificates.
About 40 entrants were submitted this year, according to the local bar association.
The runners up this year were Molly Picone, a Bangor High School student, for her artwork and Evan Vidas, a student at Brewer High School, for his essay.
Honorable mentions for artwork were awarded to Rebecca Batron, a student at Dexter Regional High School, and Hampden Academy student Chloe Lawrence. Honorable mentions for essays went to two Brewer High School students, Annabelle Fernandez-Faucher and Anna Jewell.