Truth and the Law — and Miranda


Thanks to modern technology and “time-shifting” I was able to watch the brief apology speech Tiger Woods gave to his wife and children, his fans, the employees of his charitable foundation and – probably most importantly – his sponsors.

Some critics question the sincerity of the greatest golfer ever – noticing his lack of emotion or even passion when apologizing, his unfamiliarity with the text he was reading from and his lengthy wait to even appear and give such an apology.

TIger Woods' wrecked SUVMy concern was the total lack of mentioning a very serious aspect of the whole Tiger Woods fiasco – driving while intoxicated.  The whole incident erupted on the world news scene when Tiger smashed his luxury SUV into a fire hydrant and a neighbor’s tree and was dragged unconscious from the vehicle by his wife.

His lack of consciousness was suspected to have been caused by drugs and/or alcohol by the law enforcement personnel at the scene. In fact, one person at the scene, a neighbor, stated he had seen Tiger consuming alcohol earlier in the day.  But an attempt to collect medical evidence was denied by the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office.

So perhaps the rich and powerful do get a few breaks the rank-and-file don’t get – such as avoiding criminal charges.

However, while dishing out apologies, Tiger Woods should have shown some remorse and/or regret for impaired driving.  After all, most of the hubbub about the situation revolves around the universal acknowledgment of Tiger as the model for today’s youth.

But in my world, people are busted and jailed and taken to court for a variety of major and minor infractions.  Drugs and alcohol seem to be at the top of the list.  And anyone who has watched TV knows that the first thing that happens during an arrest is the reading of the Miranda rights.

Even I – one who has little interest in television programming — know about Miranda rights.  I have had a couple of people in my care who have told me they were too upset or too drugged to remember having heard them.   I am pretty sure these people did hear them, like a 19 year old jailed for possession of cocaine who probably had more in his blood stream than he did in his pockets.  I saw him with a social aide after he got out of jail.

He seemed to have an underlying bipolar and to have treated his depression rather amateurishly with cocaine.  But as he was emotionally labile with purple hair, it was hard to get at the truth.  He was off the streets, living on hotel vouchers under the devoted if inept tutelage of a social aide.  He may have been bipolar underneath his intoxication.

I think somebody had read him his Miranda rights.  I do not think he remembered.  As it turned out, this manifestly intoxicated individual had alleged he had heard his Miranda rights, and had waived them.  This seemed to be true.

The real question that all the “law and medicine” advocates are now grappling with is the capacity to waive Miranda rights. They have structured scales and scores for this.  I cannot imagine even the most socially conscious police officer dutifully administering such things, especially when physical danger to his or her person is part of his or her chosen profession, and most especially likely to be present when Miranda rights need to be administered.  I do not fault our insufficiently-valued police personnel on this point.

Proverbs 23:23 (King James Version) “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” This is only one way to say what is at the depths of the question.  Bible is optional, but crucial to many.

So the real question is how do we get at the truth?  Not through the court system.  Privilege wins, as illustrated above by the Tiger Woods case and recently by renewed veneration of Roman Polanski.  Lindsay Lohan spent 84 minutes in jail for her 3rd DUI in one year – and some of her busts for DUI made no mention (or carried no charges) of underaged drinking.

Of course, you get as much protection from the law as you pay for.  After seeing how patients fared when I was working in public institutions, the patients whose parents had money to pay for defense got lawyers who were able to overturn Miranda waivers.   The patient cited above did his time in jail, and had been rejected by his parents long before I met him.  A similar patient also 19 years old, whose troubles started when he was a University student and whose parents were behind him although it cost them every cent they had, kept him out of jail and got the waiving of Miranda overturned.  Granted, nobody could tell if he was intoxicated or simply psychiatrically ill when the cops picked him up, but he was surely a mess.


If standard solutions to substance abuse have all failed,

maybe it’s time to go outside the system.


In the military there was a thing called the Amytal interview — a way to “get at the truth.” I never did it.  It had too much risk, in my opinion — risk of respiratory arrest. I would have had to be ready to administer manual respiration.

Even a similar intervention with safer medications, such as benzodiazepines, I would have had to ask, “who is doing this and what truth are we imposing upon whom?”

Let’s try a different way to look at things.  Nobody has an absolute handle on the truth.  I am not at all convinced that rewording Miranda or attempting to micromanage the situations in which administration of that venerable paragraph is required is going to fix things.

Relative truth is a difficult issue in philosophy.  It is an issue of such complexity that it seems to me almost impossible to deal with it in law enforcement, where people in understaffed conditions may be struggling to stay alive.

I do not believe that the 19 year old I saw, who had waived his Miranda rights while intoxicated and had nobody to reverse the situation, was in any way “improved” by having been in jail.  Most people in his situation would have been offered a drug rehab or diversion program, and even the worst of those could not have been worse than jail.  It was alleged he went the way he went because of prior convictions.

We are not going to change all of the laws right away.  I do not think we should decide what to do about Miranda circumstances on political grounds, the way we decide most issues in this country.   The answer is neither to “bear down” upon this young man by putting him in jail (where he picked up ‘a few things’ from other criminals, he told me with a wink) nor to let him go.

We need some kind of selective law enforcement.  Zero Tolerance is an absurd concept in a universe where Einstein proved that there are no absolutes and everything is relative.

Too many times in my life I have reported being mugged or having my pocket picked, and be told by police “we can give you a report for insurance.  We will never catch this person.” Dick Tracy and Sherlock Holmes are myths.

Even as a victim, I sympathize that law enforcement personnel are overstretched to the point of inefficacy.  In hospitals, we use a system called “triage” to sort out the most needy and important cases for our attention. Law enforcement needs to prioritize what crimes get the personnel to get solved, and which need to have some kind of automatic or semi-automatic outcomes.  Of course, I mean by reasons other than wealth or political clout.

We need to find out — as I think we can statistically — which crimes have maximum danger to public welfare, and work on those.  Fund places with drug treatment — no, I am not saying such places work, only that they are likely to be less traumatic than jail — and focus on rape and murder and things with guns.

No, this will not help me with having been mugged in Chicago or pickpocketed in Las Vegas or so many things I cannot list them, usually involving my patients in Los Angeles.  But maybe, just maybe, instead of looking at rewording Miranda, somebody has got to start looking at where people are dying and doing what is going on to help them.

Yes, there is a truth, and we can and should be working on how to find it.  Admit that people in the drug subculture live alternative truths and that throwing them in jail does them no good.  Death and destruction, murder and rape, have truths.  Even terrorism has a truth, which we may not be looking at finding or locating.  And we should be.  Truth must come first.

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