In the famous case Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court ruled that suspects can only be interrogated after the police read them their legal rights. Read on to learn more about the details and legal legacy of Miranda v. Arizona.
The case was a lock. The victim had identified her attacker; the defendant had come in for questioning, and under interrogation, signed a confession admitting that he had committed the crime. So, there was nothing left to do but lock away the prisoner, right? Well, not quite.
In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested for the kidnapping and rape of an 18-year-old woman. Although Miranda confessed under police interrogation, he was never informed of his right to an attorney or to remain silent. Miranda was eventually convicted but appealed to the Supreme Court in 1966, claiming his confession was unconstitutional.
In the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, the court was tasked with deciding whether or not law enforcement officials must inform a defendant of his or her rights prior to investigation. In addition, the Court reviewed three other cases, Vignera v. New York, Westover v. United States and California v. Stewart, in which the defendants likewise made confessions to police officers and provided information that was used against them in court.
The Supreme Court at the time was lead by Chief Justice Earl Warren, who had presided over a vast number of other important court cases, such as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which abolished the state practice of maintaining separate public schools for black and white students.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned Ernesto Miranda's conviction because he was not explicitly informed of his rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Speaking for the majority opinion, Chief Justice Warren wrote: 'The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.'
Some justices, however, feared that the new rules would allow criminals to run free. For example, Justice Harlan wrote: 'I have no desire whatsoever to share the responsibility for any such impact on the present criminal process. In some unknown number of cases, the Court's rule will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets and to the environment which produced him, to repeat his crime whenever it pleases him.'
As a result of the case, police officers today must inform an arrested individual of all rights afforded to him or her in the U.S. Constitution. This set of constitutional rights is known as a person's Miranda rights. These rights come straight from the Supreme Court ruling and must be read to the suspect before any questioning of a suspect begins.
The Supreme Court has revisited Miranda rights on multiple occasions. For example, in 2000, the Court ruled on Dickerson v. United States, which considered whether reading suspects their Miranda rights was required by the law. The Court upheld its Miranda decision, arguing that it had become part of our national culture.
Consequences for Miranda
As for Ernesto Miranda, he was retried in court without his confessions admitted into court. He was convicted and served a 5-year term. He later died in a bar fight.
Miranda v. Arizona was a Supreme Court case that overturned Ernesto Miranda's conviction for kidnapping and rape because he had not been informed of his legal rights prior to confessing. For example, Miranda did not know that he could ask for an attorney or remain silent during questioning. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren wrote the majority opinion.
As a result of the Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona, you must be informed of your legal rights prior to an interrogation. The decision was reaffirmed in other court cases, such as Dickerson v. the United States. Although the Court overturned Miranda's initial conviction, the state of Arizona retried and convicted him. He served a 5-year sentence for his crime, eventually dying in a bar fight.
After you are finished, you should be able to:
- Summarize the case of Miranda v. Arizona
- Recall the court's decision on Miranda v. Arizona and some of the controversy surrounding it
- Explain the significance of the Supreme Court's decision
- Describe what happened to Ernesto Miranda following this decision