Miranda v. Arizona Summary: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

'You have the right to remain silent . . .' are not just words we hear in police movies or on TV. Rather, they are a result of a Supreme Court case, 'Miranda v. Arizona.' In this lesson, we will learn why the police must say this and how it protects our rights as citizens.

Background of Miranda v. Arizona

In 1963, police in Arizona arrested Ernesto Miranda and took him to the station to question him. After several hours of being questioned by the police, Miranda wrote and signed a confession. The police did not tell him that he had any rights and he had no lawyer with him, nor was one offered to him. When the case went to court, the confession was used as evidence and the jury found him guilty. Miranda did not agree with the decision and appealed, asking a higher court to hear the case. The case went to the Arizona Supreme Court who upheld the ruling of the lower court.

Seal of the U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court Seal

Question Before the Supreme Court

Still not satisfied, Miranda appealed to the highest court in the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court. The question that the Supreme Court was being asked to decide was whether Miranda's constitutional rights had been violated when he was arrested and questioned. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people from having to answer questions in court if their answers could be self-incriminating or show they are guilty.

In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court had to determine whether the Fifth Amendment protecting individuals from making self-incriminating statements also applied outside of the courtroom. Do people under arrest have any rights?

What Did the Court Decide?

Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the decision.
Earl Warren

The Supreme Court decided by a vote of 5 - 4 on June 13, 1966. Chief Justice Warren, the head of the Court at that time wrote the majority decision. The Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment does apply when a person is under arrest and not just in the courtroom. Because Miranda was not advised of his rights, the confession could not be used in his trial.

In addition, Chief Justice Warren also referenced the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees that people who are charged with a crime have the right to legal counsel. His decision stated that not only do people have these constitutional rights, but upon arrest they must be made aware of these rights.

How Miranda v. Arizona Affects Police Work Today

Police must tell a person about his/her rights anytime an arrest is made and before they ask any questions. The American Bar Association says the rights are:

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