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Miranda rights warning case goes to Supreme Court

Inside a small interview room at the Tampa Police Department in August 2004, an officer read Kevin Dewayne Powell his rights.

Among them: "You have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of our questions. You have the right to use any of these rights at any time you want during this interview."

It's a portion of the ubiquitous warning, a fundamental element of the criminal justice system and one now ingrained in the American psyche thanks to television cop dramas.

But it's a little more complicated than what is shown on TV. The Supreme Court, which required that suspects be made aware of their rights through its Miranda ruling in 1966, has resisted establishing a template for the warning. So different jurisdictions have various, though similar, Miranda warnings.

"On the surface it seems like a simple rule, but it has spawned a lot of litigation over the meaning of the words," said Richard Leo, a law professor and author on the issue.

Powell's case is no different. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Monday about whether the Tampa Police Department adequately advised Powell of his right to an attorney.

Law enforcement agencies nationwide are expected to closely watch the hearing and subsequent decision, which could affect an untold number of cases.

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