Our Miranda Rights - Everything about Miranda Rights by Dr.Bethel Erastus-Obilo



The 1966 case of Miranda v Arizona was one that helped to define the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.41 The case involved Ernesto Miranda who had confessed to a crime during police questioning oblivious of his constitutional right to have an attorney present. At his trial, his confession was admitted into evidence and he was convicted.

Case Study

The Miranda case was heard along with the three other cases of Vignera v. New York, Westover v. United State and California v. Stewart. 42

The common threads running through all these cases were as follows:

• The defendant, while in police custody, was questioned by police officers, detectives, or a prosecuting attorney in a room in which he was cut off from the outside world.

• None of the defendants was given a full and effective warning of his rights at the outset of the interrogation process.

• The questioning of the defendants produced oral admissions and signed statements

• These admissions and statements were admitted at their trials.

• All the defendants were convicted and all convictions, except in one, were affirmed on appeal.

The opinion of the Supreme Court was delivered by Chief Justice Warren. In that opinion, he started by observing that:

“The cases before us raise questions which go to the roots of our concepts of American criminal jurisprudence: the restraints society must observe consistent with the Federal Constitution in prosecuting individuals for crime. More specifically, we deal with the admissibility of statements obtained from an individual who is subjected to custodial police interrogation and the necessity for procedures which assure that the individual is accorded his privilege under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution not to be compelled to incriminate himself.”

In this landmark case, the Court stated that it was not being innovative but rather, clarifying issues that had been a part of the US Criminal jurisprudence and held as follows:

1. The prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way, unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination.

(a) The atmosphere and environment of incommunicado interrogation, as it exists today, is inherently intimidating and works to undermine the privilege against self-incrimination. Unless adequate preventive measures are taken to dispel the compulsion inherent in custodial surroundings, no statement obtained from the suspect can truly be the product of his free choice.

(b) The privilege against self-incrimination, which has had a long and expansive historical development, is the essential mainstay of our adversary system and guarantees to the individual, the "right to remain silent unless he chooses to speak in the unfettered exercise of his own will," during a period of custodial interrogation as well as in the courts or during the course of other official investigations.

(c) The decision in Escobedo43 stressed the need for protective devices to make the process of police interrogation conform to the dictates of the privilege.

(d) In the absence of other effective measures the following procedures to safeguard the Fifth Amendment privilege must be observed: The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.

(e) If the individual indicates, prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease; if he states that he wants an attorney, the questioning must cease until an attorney is present.

(f) Where an interrogation is conducted without the presence of an attorney and a statement is taken, a heavy burden rests on the Government to demonstrate that the defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his right to counsel.

(g) Where the individual answers some questions during in custody interrogation he has not waived his privilege and may invoke his right to remain silent thereafter.

(h) The warnings required and the waiver needed are, in the absence of a fully effective equivalent, prerequisites to the admissibility of any statement, inculpatory or exculpatory, made by a defendant.

2. The limitations on the interrogation process required for the protection of the individual's constitutional rights should not cause an undue interference with a proper system of law enforcement, as demonstrated by the procedures of the FBI and the safeguards afforded in other jurisdictions.

3. In each of these cases the statements were obtained under circumstances that did not meet constitutional standards for protection of the privilege against self-incrimination.

Miranda v Arizona. 384. U.S 436 (1966)

The case was remanded to the trial court for a retrial and, without the confession evidence, Ernesto Miranda was, once again, convicted.

41 The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified on July 9, 1868, granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States”. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person "life, liberty or property, without due process of law" or to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” By directly mentioning the role of the states, the 14th Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment. http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/14thamendment.html

42 Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S 436 (1966)

43 In Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478

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Last updated on March 3, 2019

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