Miranda v. Arizona: Summary, Facts & Significance

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  • 0:01 Case Facts
  • 1:14 Court Decision
  • 2:41 Case Significance
  • 3:00 Related Rulings
  • 3:26 Consequences for Miranda
  • 3:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Benz

Stephen has taught history, journalism, sociology, and political science courses at multiple levels, including the middle school, high school and college levels.

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.

Case Facts

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.

Court Decision

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.'

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