The familiar adage “You have the right to remain silent” turns 50-years-old today. The Miranda Rights, eponymously named after the defendant in the famous Supreme Court case, were established on June 13th, 1966, following a final 5-4 decision by the court.
The decision requires law enforcement agents to officially inform the alleged criminals at the time of the arrest that they can choose to be silent until they require the appropriate legal representation. The binding freedom was put in place to protect any violation of the Fifth Amendment and became formal police protocol nationwide.
While at home on March 13th, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested by Phoenix police officers and subsequently brought to the police station. Miranda was questioned for more than two hours because of a purported connection with a kidnapping and rape.
Following the interrogation, Miranda submitted an official written confession that was later authorized as evidence to be used in the trial. Miranda’s court-appointed defense attorney, Alvin Moore, objected to the admission of the confession asserting that it was not made voluntarily and thus was not legitimate and should not be admissible in court. The involved police officers conceded that they had not advised Miranda of his right to have a lawyer present at the time of the arrest and questioning.
The local court found Miranda guilty. Following a successful appeal for a retrial in a higher court, the Supreme Court of Arizona upheld the lower court’s decision that his constitutional rights could not have been violated if he did not petition or ask for an attorney.
While serving a sentence of 20-30 years, Miranda composed a handwritten request for a writ of certiorari, or an official legal petition for “a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court may review it.”
The writ was accepted and Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the opinion of the 5-4 majority. The Supreme Court affirmed that the Fifth Amendment’s original purpose was to protect against all forms of self-incrimination no matter the setting. In other words, prosecution may not use statements as evidence unless the suspect:
Was aware of his right to be silent, that any statement he makes may be used against him, that he was the right to have an attorney present, that he has the right to have an attorney appointed to him, that he may waive these rights if he does so voluntarily, and that if at any points he requests an attorney there will be no further questioning until the attorney arrives.
The landmark decision ultimately affected “four different cases involving custodial interrogations.” According to a poll conducted by C-SPAN, Miranda v. Arizona is the fourth most known Supreme Court Case in the country.
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