Miranda v. Ariz.

In the context of custodial interrogation, once warnings have been given, the subsequent procedure is clear. If the individual indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease. At this point he has shown that he intends to exercise his Fifth Amendment privilege ,any statement taken after the person invokes his privilege cannot be other than the product of compulsion, subtle or otherwise. Without the right to cut off questioning, the setting of in-custody interrogation operates on the individual to overcome free choice in producing a statement after the privilege has been once invoked. If the individual states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present. At that time, the individual must have an opportunity to confer with the attorney and to have him present during any subsequent questioning. If the individual cannot obtain an attorney and he indicates that he wants one before speaking to police, they must respect his decision to remain silent.

Facts of the case:

This case represents the consolidation of four cases, in each of which the defendant confessed guilt after being subjected to a variety of interrogation techniques without being informed of his Fifth Amendment rights during an interrogation. On March 13, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested in his house and brought to the police station where he was questioned by police officers in connection with a kidnapping and rape. After two hours of interrogation, the police obtained a written confession from Miranda. The written confession was admitted into evidence at trial despite the objection of the defense attorney and the fact that the police officers admitted that they had not advised Miranda of his right to have an attorney present during the interrogation. The jury found Miranda guilty. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Arizona affirmed and held that Miranda’s constitutional rights were not violated because he did not specifically request counsel.

Brief Fact Summary:

The defendants offered incriminating evidence during police interrogations without prior notification of their rights under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution (the “Constitution”).

Case Commentary:

The decision was widely attacked at the time for giving criminals extra ways to unfairly escape prosecution. Congress attempted to override it by introducing a law that imposed the totality of the circumstances test supported by Clark, but federal prosecutors did not actually use that law to justify introducing evidence. However, later decisions have restricted some of Miranda’s applications, for example by clarifying that the suspect must clearly and affirmatively assert any of these rights upon receiving the warnings in order to validly exercise them. Courts also have crafted a distinction between confessions and spontaneous statements by defendants, which may be admissible at trial even if Miranda warnings have not been provided, and limits have been placed on the meaning of “custody,” which is the only situation in which the warnings apply. On the other hand, courts have held that waiving Miranda rights is effective only if it is voluntary, knowing, and intelligent, providing defense attorneys with grounds on which to challenge evidence introduced based on waivers. Ironically, while the case had sweeping effects on the American criminal justice system, it had very little impact on Miranda’s own situation. He was retried for the crimes with the use of other evidence and again sentenced to 20-30 years, although he was released five years later on parole. A minor local celebrity, he autographed the “Miranda cards” that police officers in Phoenix (as in many other cities across the country) used to verify that they had provided proper warnings to suspects. Miranda was eventually killed in an incident that police never resolved, due in part to a suspect exercising his Miranda right to silence.


The Miranda v. Arizona Decision The outcome of this case was the overturning of Miranda’s conviction based on the finding that Miranda was not given appropriate warnings of his right to an attorney prior to questioning by the police and his ensuing confession. The Court found that the “privilege against self-incrimination” included in the Fifth Amendment was not preserved for Miranda because of this failure to warn Miranda. The Court’s basic ruling was that, in order to use statements gathered from a custodial interrogation as evidence in a trial, a prosecutor must “demonstrate the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination”. The Court went on to state that the specific requirements for those safeguards include the following: a warning of the right to remain silent, a warning that anything the suspect says may be used against him, and a warning that the suspect has a right to an attorney. It described how waiver of those rights is allowed if such waiver is voluntary, knowing, and intelligent. Silence does not constitute waiver. The Court noted that, during interrogation, once the suspect asks for an attorney, any present questioning must cease. The Court went on to state that if a suspect refuses to be questioned at all, the police must not question him and, if the suspect asks for an attorney after he begins to speak, questioning must then stop. The Court warned that warnings of rights must be given “at the outset” of questioning to protect defendants against the typically coercive elements of the standard interrogation environment. The Court expressed particular concern with failure to warn a suspect of his rights in the particular situation of “incommunicado interrogation of individuals in a police-dominated atmosphere” and with interrogation techniques and strategies which are designed to elicit, sometimes false, confessions without actual coercion. In discussing such circumstances, the Court acknowledged that, in Miranda’s case, his statement was not actually “involuntary” as it would likely be in an incommunicado and highly coercive environment. The Court described how there must be evidence of some actual “undertaking” by police to preserve the privilege against self-incrimination because many interrogation environments are characterized by intimidation, overt or otherwise. The Court also held that government interest in questioning potential criminals is not of greater importance than upholding the privilege against self-incrimination.