Do criminals have rights? People usually accustom the apprehension of criminals to the scenes of these felons as they are caught by the police either in the news or in television shows. As the criminals are caught, the officers then “read him his rights”. This is the so-called “Miranda warning”, telling the criminal of his rights. Just how did this practice of assessing the criminal of his rights all begin?
Miranda vs. Arizona: Criminals have rights
The concept that the government should force persons to give information that will implicate them in a criminal offense started actually in 17th century England (Encarta, 2008). People at this period in time were beginning to voice their opposition to the infamous “Star Chamber”, founded in 1487 in Great Britain that used torture as a means of extracting confessions from the defendants bought before it (Encarta, 2008). This court also forced individuals to answer any queries that were asked of the defendants, including self-incriminatory ones (Encarta, 2008).
After the American colonies gained independence from Great Britain, the framers of the United States Constitution included the right from self-incrimination in the Bill of Rights (Encarta, 2008). This was after the British dissolved the “Star Chamber” in 1641, and guaranteeing that right in the English Common Law (Encarta, 2008). The right of a person not give any statement that will implicate him in criminal wrongdoing is guaranteed in the Constitution's Fifth Amendment (Encarta, 2008). But was the Miranda case the first to recognize this right?
The case actually was a culmination of several court actions in the 1960's that were tailored to uphold the constitutional rights of suspects and criminals (Encarta, 2008). In the Gideon vs. Wainwright case, the Supreme Court decided that states must provide legal counsel for the criminals who were poor, in support of the mandate of the Sixth Amendment (Encarta, 2008). This right guaranteed the right of defendants to counsel (Encarta, 2008). In another case, in Escobido vs. Illinois, the High Court rules that an individual in custody must have counsel present when undergoing interrogation by the police and in court proceedings (Encarta, 2008).
Ernesto Miranda: Setting the benchmark
Ernesto Miranda was an indigent Mexican immigrant residing in Phoenix, Arizona (Street Law, 2000). A 23-year old truck driver, Miranda was arrested by the Phoenix police at his home, and charged for robbery and rape felonies (Encarta, 2008). While in police detention, he was continuously interrogated for two hours (Street Law, 2000). It was while in police custody that the witness identified him as the culprit (Michael Cooke, 2002).
At this point, the authorities put him into an interrogation facility; bombard him with questions, all without the benefit of counsel or being assessed of his rights (Cooke, 2002). These rights included his right against self-incrimination, as enshrined in the Fifth Amendment, or the right to counsel, in the Sixth (Street Law, 2000). When the case went to court, the prosecution proceeded to make the written confession Miranda had accomplished, owning up to the crimes that he had committed, as part of the evidence (Street Law, 2000). The judge hearing the case allowed the admission of the confession into evidence, despite the objections and appeals of the defense (Cooke, 2002). With the admission of the confession, Miranda was meted with 20 to 30 year sentence (Cook, 2002).
The defense appealed the lower court decision to the Arizona Supreme Court. They argued that the confession should have been suppressed as the confession was obtained without informing the defendant of his rights and was made without counsel present (Street Law, 2000). In denying the appeal, the state Supreme Court ruled that Miranda's rights were not infringed upon by admitting to the crime (Cooke, 2002). The lawyers turned to the United States Supreme Court for relief (Cooke, 2002).
In overturning the rulings of both the lower court and the state Supreme Court, Chief Justice Earl Warren, who wrote that the confession made by the defendant were not done in the accepted or traditional way (Encarta, 2008). In the Supreme Court decision, it was noted that unless there were sufficient protection is afforded the defendant, that any statement made under the circumstances are to be deemed as not made of the defendant's free choice (Encarta, 2008). Under the rules of the Miranda decision, the defendant must be made aware of his right to remain silent and that any statement given by him might be used against him in criminal proceedings (Street Law, 2002).
Cooke, M. (2002). Case brief of Miranda v. Arizona. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from
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Street Law. (2002). Miranda v. Arizona: a primer. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from