Case Brief Of Miranda Vs. Arizona 1966

A look into the Supreme Court case of Miranda v Arizona, and how it changed suspect rights

Of all cases to make its way to the Supreme Court, Miranda v Arizona may well be the most popular to date. Virtually everyone has heard of the "Miranda Rights" which are read to suspects. While many people may be familiar with the terminology from television shows, not nearly as many understand the true origins of the Miranda rights. The actual case of Miranda v Illinois may be the case the "Miranda Rights" are named after, but several other Supreme Court decisions all came together to form the ruling, including Escabedo v Illinois. However, since Miranda was the final case to be decided at the time covering this issue, it is considered the father of the "Right to remain silent."

On March 13, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested at Arizona his home. The police took him into custody, and transported him to a Phoenix police station. The witness whom had filed the complaint identified him. Miranda was then lead to the interrogation room. Then, the police officers proceeded to question him. Miranda had never been informed of his rights prior to the questioning. He was never told he had the right to an attorney to be present during the questioning. After two hours, the officers had succeeded in getting a written confession signed by Miranda. Located on the top of the confession was a typed paragraph stating that the confession was voluntary, without any promises of immunity or threats. The statement also said that Miranda signed the confession "with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make may be used against me."

When Miranda's case went to trial, the prosecution used the written confession as evidence against him. The defense objected, asking for the evidence to be suppressed. However, the judge allowed the confession to be admitted. Miranda was convicted of all counts, which consisted of kidnapping and rape. On each count he was sentenced to 20 to 30 years, with the sentences running concurrently. On Miranda's first appeal, the Supreme Court of Arizona ruled that his rights had not been violated by the admission of the confession, and therefore affirmed the conviction. The basis for the decision was connected to the fact that Miranda never specifically requested council.

Miranda eventually appealed his case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that based off the testimony given by the police officers, and the admission of Miranda, it was obvious that he had never been told in any form of his right to council, or his right to have one during his questioning. The court also stated that Miranda was never informed of his right to not be compelled to incriminate himself. The Court also stated that without these warnings, all statement from Miranda were inadmissible. They went on to rule that, just because the confession had a typed statement saying Miranda had full knowledge of his rights, never reaches the level needed for one to intelligently waive their constitutional rights. Based on this information, the Supreme Court reversed the decision.

The Supreme Court went on to say that the process of interrogation is intimidating by its very nature, and that a suspect must be read his or her rights to counteract this intimidation. The Court continued by specifically outlining how a suspect must be informed of his or her rights. First, a suspect needs to be read his rights only before he is to be interrogated. An officer may arrest a suspect without reading the Miranda rights as long as her does not question or interrogate the suspect in any way.

When questioning begins, the first statement to be made is "You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Do you understand?" The officer must receive a verbal or written confirmation that the suspect understands his right to remain silent. The officer is then to say "Anything you do say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Do you understand?" Once again, as with all the Miranda rights, the officer must have a verbal or written acknowledgement of his right. The next statement is "You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. Do you understand?" That statement is followed by "If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. Do you understand?" The next Miranda right states that "If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Do you understand?" The last Miranda right specifically asks "Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?"

These Miranda rights have revolutionized the way police handle suspects. Most judges hold these rights as critical to the due process of Americans. Simply confusing one word, for example saying "anything you say may be used against you", as opposed to "can and will be used against you", has been grounds for dismissal. While some feel that it is unreasonable for the guilty to go free on technicalities, it is currently held that it is necessary to occasionally allow the guilty to go free to protect the innocent form undue hardship.

© High Speed Ventures 2011