If you have watched enough cop shows on TV, or seen any number of mystery, criminal or thriller movies, you have likely, more than once, heard the Miranda Rights. It’s the speech that police give to criminal suspects in police custody before they are interrogated, and is also referred to as an individual’s right to silence warning. With its widespread use and important impact, it’s worth understanding the history and background behind this popular legal spiel.
Who Was Miranda?
The Miranda Rights were first conceptualized in 1966, following the Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision in favor of Ernesto Arturo Miranda. Miranda had been arrested for robbery, kidnapping, and the rape of a mentally handicapped young woman. In his trial, however, it was found that his fifth and sixth amendment rights had been violated during his initial interrogation by police officers upon his arrest.
The fifth amendment is one’s right against compelled self-incrimination, while the sixth amendment is the right to counsel, whereby the suspected individual has the right to consult with an attorney before questioning begins.
Miranda confessed to the crime he had committed during his 1963 interrogation, unaware that he did not have to say anything at all, with later attorney claims indicating he was coerced into confession. Furthermore, at no time was Miranda told of his right to counsel.
Intimidating and coercive methods of interrogation by police were a common practice, as Miranda and his legal team would prove, and the Supreme Court soon came to realize that this was not lawfully acceptable or in line with basic human rights. Based on this, the Supreme Court established the Miranda Rights on June 13, 1966, under the principle that all criminal suspects must be advised of their rights before interrogation. The warning protects an individual’s rights by clearly explaining their options regarding custody and arrest.
What are the Miranda Rights?
The Miranda Warning outlines specific rights for an individual who is placed under arrest, with the police advising the suspect of the following:
- They have a right to remain silent;
- Anything the suspect does say can and may be used against them in a court of law;
- They have the right to have an attorney present before and during questioning;
- They have the right to have an attorney appointed, at public cost, and no personal expense, if they cannot afford the services of an attorney.
The law does not require that the exact wording or order of rights be used as indicated above, just that all of them must be provided to the suspect in clear terms during the arrest and prior to questioning.
Ernesto Miranda was eventually tried again in Arizona, with his original confession excluded from evidence, and would be convicted once more. He would serve nearly ten years in prison for his crimes. Following his release, Miranda would suffer a lethal knife wound during a violent bar fight in Phoenix.
Somewhat ironically, Miranda’s suspected killer was read his Miranda rights, and opted not to answer any questions from police. He would never be convicted of Miranda’s death.
Miranda’s infamy lives on today, however, as the reading of Miranda Rights continue to be a common practice among law enforcement officers across the country.