Miranda vs Arizona

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“This Court has undertaken to review the voluntariness of statements obtained by police in state cases since Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U. S. 278 (1936). (Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U. S. 737 (1966))

The Warren Court from 1953 until 1969 established luminary rights with its liberal interpretation, and as some say “ judicial policymaking”, such as the “right to privacy” Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479(1965), “separate but equal is not constitutional” Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483 (1954) and the definitive protection of rights in the Miranda decision.

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Miranda v. Arizona was one of a series of landmark Supreme Court cases of the mid-1960’s establishing new guarantees of procedural fairness for defendants in criminal cases. The Court’s decision in Miranda sprang from two different lines of precedents under the Fourteenth Amendment. One of these lines was the right-to-counsel cases: Powell v. Alabama (1932), in which the Court held that indigent defendants had to be afforded counsel in capital cases; Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), which extended the right to counsel for indigent defendants to all felony cases; and Escobedo v.

Illinois (1964), in which the Court held that a confession obtained from a defendant who had asked for and been denied permission to speak to an attorney was inadmissible. By 1964, the right to counsel had expanded to include mandatory representation for indigents at trial in all felonies and also gave potential defendants the right to representation during questioning while in custody if they requested it. The second line of cases culminated with Malloy v. Hogan (1964), in which the Court had held that the privilege against self-incrimination applied to the states.

Moreover, prior to the Miranda case, a long series of Supreme Court decisions had established that neither physical coercion nor certain forms of psychological coercion could be used by police to obtain confessions from accused persons. Thus, on the eve of Miranda, constitutional rules barred the admission of confessions which had been coerced through either physical or psychological pressures or which had been obtained from an in-custody defendant who had requested the attendance of an attorney.

By then it was also clear that the entire body of the Fifth Amendment’s self-incrimination clause was to be applied to the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Like the other cases mentioned, Miranda rests on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which requires that criminal proceedings in state courts be fundamentally fair. (Baker) Ernesto Miranda’s case involved a confession to rape and kidnapping which was elicited from him in a police interrogation room after his arrest. In addition to his oral admissions to the investigating officers, Miranda wrote out by hand a short statement, which he signed.

The questioning, by two Phoenix detectives, involved neither physical nor psychological coercion as these had been defined in the earlier cases. The transcript of Miranda’s interview showed that he answered the officers’ questions freely and that after an initial denial, he readily admitted abducting the victim and raping her. The entire interrogation and the preparation of Miranda’s written statement took less than two hours. Certiorari granted, U. S. Supreme Court At trial, Miranda’s oral admissions, and his written statement were admitted into evidence over his objection; the victim testified against him as well.

The jury found Miranda guilty of rape in the first degree and kidnapping, and he was sentenced to prison for a term of twenty to thirty years. He appealed to the Supreme Court of Arizona. After losing in that court, he appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court, which decided to hear the case in 1965. Miranda and three companion cases were argued on February 28-March 2, 1966. On June 13, 1966, the Court decided in Miranda’s favor by a 5-4 vote. (Baker) Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote for the majority, which consisted additionally of Justices Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan, Jr., and Abe Fortas.

Warren’s opinion focused on the coercive elements present in any custodial interrogation. He argued that an accused person is isolated from friends, family, and his or her attorney and is often fearful of the police. The police, as contemporary text-books on interrogation showed, were schooled in a variety of tricks and techniques which are designed to overbear the will of an arrested person and induce a confession. (Baker) These techniques, according to Chief Justice Warren’s opinion, skirt the edge of improper physical or psychological coercion, and demonstrate that custodial interrogation is inherently coercive.

Consequently, an accused person does not have a free opportunity to use the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself or herself or the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Accordingly, the Court held that before any custodial interrogation can take place, an arrested person must be given a four-fold warning—what has become known as the “Miranda warning. ” Under this rule, a suspect in custody has to be informed of the right to remain silent, of the potential use of his or her words in evidence against him or her, of the right to consult an attorney before questioning, and of the right to an assigned attorney if he or she is indigent.

Any statement elicited by the authorities is inadmissible at trial unless the defendant has been given the warning and has freely and knowingly waived these rights. Moreover, if during questioning the defendant has asked at any point that interrogation ceases or that he or she be allowed to consult an attorney, any subsequent statements obtained by the police are also inadmissible. Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissenting opinion, in this case, argued that the Court was searching for a kind of “utopian” voluntariness. The dissenters believed that Miranda’s statement had been voluntarily given.

No physical brutality or discomfort had been visited upon him, nor did the investigating officers use any special psychological tricks or deceptions. The record showed that Miranda freely gave a statement about the crimes of which he was accused. By the standards of 1963, the Phoenix police had acted properly. Harlan argued that the admissibility of Miranda’s confession was supported by precedent; moreover, in Miranda’s brief interrogation, there was “a legitimate purpose, no perceptible unfairness, and certainly little risk of injustice. ” Justices Byron White and Potter Stewart adhered to Harlan’s opinion; Justice Tom Clark submitted a separate dissenting opinion. The immediate result of Miranda v. Arizona was to reverse Miranda’s conviction for kidnapping and rape. The Arizona authorities persevered in the prosecution, and in 1969, at his second trial, Miranda was again convicted. Although the confession was not introduced against him this time, the victim’s testimony alone was enough to persuade the jury of his guilt.

Impact There has been much discussion of the impact of this rule on American law enforcement. In most criminal cases, the defendant’s words constitute a significant part of the case against him or her. Police and prosecutors feared that the Court’s holding in Miranda would cripple their efforts; they argued that the new rule would make it impossible for investigators to get the kinds of inculpatory statements necessary to obtain criminal convictions.

Once a defendant had consulted counsel, they believed, no further statements of any kind would be forthcoming, since any competent lawyer would immediately urge silence on the client. (Cassell) In the largest since this is the real significance of Miranda: By forcing the police to attend to a rigid technical requirement that respects the defendant’s rights, the opportunity for abusive behavior is lessened. Moreover, the increased professionalism of police that has resulted from Miranda and the other cases of the 1960s has benefited both police and prosecutors in preparing good cases.

In this light, Miranda represents an important step toward actualizing the rights of accused persons regardless of whether it achieves Chief Justice Warren’s stated aim, which was “to assure that the individual’s right to choose between silence and speech remains unfettered throughout the interrogation process. ” (Lasser) Chipping away at Miranda “Criticism of Miranda was immediate and widespread . . . [that] the Court was legislating rather than interpreting the law; that the decision had little support in history, in the constitutional text or in judicial precedent; and that the decision, when considered purely as public policy, was a disaster….. over the next two years, the congressional opposition became even more virulent, fueled by the increasing violence in America’s cities” (Lasser 194). In 1968 Congress enacted and President Johnson signed the Omnibus Crime and Control and Safe Streets Act which contained 18 U. S. C. , sec. 3501 which purported to annul Miranda by permitting the federal courts to admit into evidence and base convictions on confessions which could be proven to have been voluntary, despite the absence of Miranda Warnings.

Little use, however, was ever made of that section by prosecutors because of the fear that it was unconstitutional. This was tested and deemed unconstitutional by Dickerson v. the United States, 530 U. S. 428 (2000). According to Chief Justice Rehnquist in Dickerson v. the United States (2000), the majority of the Court believes that “Miranda has become embedded in routine police practices to the point where the warnings have become part of our national culture. ” In that case, the Court by a seven to two margin refused to overrule Miranda and ruled that 18 U. S. C. sec. 3501 was unconstitutional.

Yet cases have been made that have diminished Miranda, those such as Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U. S. ___ (2010), where the court held that unless and until a suspect implicitly invoked their right, then the police could continue with an interrogation. While in New York v Quarles, 467 U. S. 649 (1984) the court found a “public safety” exception to Miranda. These are just a few of the cases that have attempted to depart from Miranda. The broad strokes of the Warren Court today speak of a much more liberal, almost radical time of the 1960’s in contrast to the latter courts of Rehnquist and Roberts.

While interpretation and conceptualization of the rights granted by The Constitution and the Bill of Rights differ through the changes in society and political climate, Miranda has continued the righteous fervor of our founding fathers attempted to establish originally.

Works Cited

  1. Baker, L. (1983). Miranda: Crime, law, and politics. New York: Atheneum, 1983.
  2. Cassell, P. G. The Miranda Debate, Law Justice and Policy. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1996.
  3. Lasser, W. The limits of judicial power the Supreme Court in American Politics. Chapel Hill: North Carolina Press, 1988.

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Miranda vs Arizona. (2016, Oct 30). Retrieved from


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