Weighing in on students’ questions

Published 9:30 am Thursday, March 5, 2015

Students at Brandywine Middle/High School recently asked me the following questions. To ask a question, please email or call me using the contact information in the tagline.


“Can you explain the “rights” a police has to read to criminals and how is it related to the Constitution?” — Katelyn, a seventh grade student at Brandywine Middle/High School

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and have him/her present before or during any questioning. If you waive your right to remain silent and later change your mind, the questioning will stop. If you waive your right to have an attorney present and later change your mind, the questioning will stop until you have spoken with an attorney…” This statement is read during a custodial interrogation of a suspect. This means if the suspect is in custody and being questioned about the crime, the police would read this statement. It is not required if asking questions about name, address, hobbies, etc.

The rights, called Miranda rights (based on the case law Miranda vs Arizona) are based on the Constitution’s Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

The Fifth Amendment, in part, states “…nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…” There are many Supreme Court cases where this has been the issue. This is a reason for this part of Miranda.

The Sixth Amendment, in part, states “…and to have the assistance of Counsel for his defense.” This covers the right to an attorney.

By advising a suspect of these rights, we have satisfied the Miranda warning. If the suspect waives these rights, or gives them up, then we can ask questions about the incident. If they decide they want to stop or not answer or now want an attorney, the questions will stop.


“What classes should I take if I want to be a police officer or work on crime scenes?” — Carrigan, a seventh grade student at Brandywine Middle/High School

Carrigan, as a student, I appreciate that you are planning ahead. I started planning my career goals when I was a sixth grade student. The Michigan State Police only require a high school diploma. Most students will graduate high school between 17 and 19 years of age. You cannot become a certified police officer until you are 21 years old. I always suggest to anyone to do something. Join the military, go to college, do something to better yourself. If it comes down to one opening left and person A has only a diploma and person B has something extra, like college, it will be obvious that person B will have the better chance. Now, the MSP has hired people with only a high school diploma, but the more you can bring to us, the better.

It is suggested to take college prep classes. For crime scene work, I use science, math, and chemistry, so take classes in these subjects. To work in our lab system, you would need a Bachelor’s degree in any of the natural sciences or criminal justice, with at least eight hours in chemistry.

Thank you both for your questions.


Rob Herbstreith is a community service trooper with the Michigan State Police. For any other questions about police work, criminal laws, or the motor vehicle code, email him at TrooperRob53@yahoo.com or call him at (269) 683-4411.