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Court increases police powers

The increasingly conservative Supreme Court expanded police powers of interrogation on Thursday _ the 25th anniversary of its landmark Miranda ruling on the rights of criminal suspects to keep silent and have a lawyer present during questioning. In a 6-3 decision, the court said a suspect who is being represented by a lawyer in one criminal case can be questioned about another crime without the lawyer being present.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said the Sixth Amendment right to be represented by a lawyer in court is separate from the so-called Miranda right to an attorney during police questioning. The 1966 Miranda v. Arizona ruling was based on the Fifth Amendment right against forced self-incrimination, he explained.

If a suspect waives his Miranda rights, he does not automatically pick up a Sixth Amendment right to have a counsel present if police question him about a separate case, Scalia said.

Adding ever-more stories to the structure of constitutional law will cause an eventual collapse, he said. "We decline to add yet another story to Miranda."

The ruling illustrates the conservative majority's "inability to recognize the difference between an inquisitorial and an adversarial system of justice," charged Justice John Paul Stevens in dissent.

"The court's opinion demeans the importance of the right to counsel," he said.