Miranda v. Arizona
by Mary Schneider
In 1963, a man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested and charged with rape, kidnapping and robbery. He had not been informed of his constitutional rights prior to a two-hour long police questioning. Miranda had not finished the ninth grade and had been known to have mental instability, yet he had no counsel present. Allegedly, Miranda confessed to the crimes and the police had apparently recorded his confession. At trial, the prosecutor's case consisted of nothing but Miranda's confession. Miranda was convicted of both rape and kidnapping and sentenced to 20 to 30 years in prison. Shortly after, he appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, claiming that the police officers had unconstitutionally obtained his confession.
The Arizona Supreme Court disagreed with Miranda's claim and upheld the convictions. Miranda went on to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was reviewed in 1966. In a 5-4 decision, written by Justice Earl Warren, it was decided that the prosecution could NOT introduce the recording of Miranda's confession as evidence because the police had not informed him of his rights to an attorney and against self-incrimination first. The police duty to notify someone of these rights is given by the fifth (gives a criminal suspect the right to refuse "to be a witness against himself) and the sixth amendment (guarantees criminals the right to an attorney).
To protect a person's fifth and sixth amendment rights, the Court wrote statements that police are required to recite to people that are being detained and interrogated, called "the Miranda Rights". The Miranda Warning for the United States is: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?"
Creating the Miranda Rights reconciled the police powers of the state with the basic rights of all individuals. Today, the Miranda Law is still a good law that is followed.