Miranda v Arizona

The vast popularity seen in today’s police television shows and films of the Miranda Rights   may even go beyond the fame of the other constitutional rights such as the freedom of speech, press and assembly (Stevenson 1982).  This ruling has been first made in the case of Miranda v Arizona. In this case, Ernesto Miranda was accused of kidnapping and raping. He was then convicted on the basis of his confession that was solicited from him during the custodial investigation without the benefit of having an attorney present (Weiss 2005).

In fact, the only evidence produced by the prosecution during his trial was his confession.  The United States Supreme Court ruled in this case that due to the pressures that are exerted by the authorities during these custodial investigations the confession was tainted (Weiss 2005).  It was not proven by the prosecution that the confession was made freely and voluntarily, which is the essence of all extra-judicial confessions.

The overlying implication in this case and in the adoption of the Miranda Rights is that no person can be compelled to incriminate against himself. Despite this, there is still the rampant reality of pressuring alleged suspects to admit to a felony. There is no higher right than that of human dignity which carries with it the privilege of being innocent until proven guilty and the right against self-incrimination (Weiss 2005).

The Miranda Rights as known today is a police warning that is issued to all suspects who are in police custody under custodial investigation or who are under police custody in any manner as to restrict their liberties and freedoms (Weiss 2005).  The requisites of this right are even known to little children playing cops and robbers in the park. In television shows, the common lines will be, “You are under arrest! You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may and will be used against you. You have the right to have an attorney.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will provide you with one.”  When an alleged perpetrator of crime is narrowed down and there is the need to get information from the crime he or she is suspected of doing, the Miranda Rights must necessarily be taken in consideration in the whole process. Otherwise, all the information and evidence retrieved and taken shall be inadmissible in the court (Weiss 2005).

While this right has certainly been accorded a great degree of weight by the justice system, the fact is, however, that even with the great publicity that it has received; only a handful of suspects (20 percent) choose to avail themselves of the rights secured under the Miranda Rights Doctrine (Stevenson 1982).

There are many reasons for this and one of the reasons as cited by Sacramento County Sheriff's Seargent Carl Stincelli, who was an instructor in police interrogations at Interviews and Interrogations Institute in Folsom, is that the suspects are more often than not remorseful of the crime and intend to freely confess at all costs or that they are anxious about the punishment that may be meted out to them and instead hope to gain a lower sentence by confessing (Stevenson 1982).

The greater weight of the authorities, however, suggests that there may be other viable reasons as to why suspects are not as mindful of their rights under the Miranda Doctrine.  One of these reasons is that suspects, while informed of their rights under the law, may not be truly aware of their rights (Coldrey 1991).  While it may be explained in plain English that one has the right to remain silent or has the right to a counsel of choice, it is still not clear how these rights may be invoked particularly under such high pressure situations such as custodial investigations.

The suspect, once deprived of his liberty and freedom under the custody of police officers, is not under the same mental condition and does not possess the same amount of mental comprehension once possessed under opposite circumstances.  This means that though the rights are recited to the suspect there is no guarantee that the suspect under stands just exactly what he or she is entitled to under the law (Stevenson 1982).  This leads to the problem of most people not using their rights under the Miranda Doctrine.

It must be emphasized, however, that while many people do not avail of the right, it does not mean that the Miranda Rights are not in effect (Stevenson 1982).  The law has clearly provided that there can be no implied waiver of the Miranda Rights and any such waiver can only be executed in the presence of a competent counsel of the suspect’s choice.  Therefore, even though the rights are not availed off by the suspect, they still act to protect the suspect from self-incrimination (Stevenson 1982).

The fact that there are still people who despite the wide spread information with regard to the Miranda Rights waive their constitutionally protected right to self-incrimination shows that most people are simply not aware of their privileges and rights under the law (Coldrey 1991).  While it may be argued that there may be other factors such as remorse or fear under the custody of authorities, this cannot explain why people are inclined to waive a right that has been specifically designed to protect them from harassment.

The arguments as to remorse and punishment do not explain why a person is willing to risk being incarcerated or punished by waiving his or her Miranda Rights while under police custody (Coldrey 1991).  It is but natural for human beings to seek remorse but it is unnatural to expose oneself to possibly punishment especially when it involves possible incarceration.

The clear reason for the waiver of the Miranda Rights is that these suspects are simply not properly informed of their rights under the Doctrine (Coldrey 1991).  There is also a failure to explain just exactly what the implications of such waiver are and whether or not the statements given are or will be admissible in court against the suspect (Coldrey 1991).  Police authorities are, more often than not, loath to inform a suspect that he or she is under investigation or questioning at the onset.

The psychological aspect of interviewing or questioning oftentimes confuses the suspect into providing an incriminating answer unwittingly (Coldrey 1991).  This is the aspect which most suspects are not fully aware of and hence the necessity of the Miranda Rights.

References:

Coldrey, J. (1991) "The Right to Silence: Should it be curtailed or abolished?"` 20 Anglo-American Law Review 51.

Stevenson, N. (1982) "Criminal Cases in the NSW District Court: A Pilot Study" In J. Basten, M. Richardson, C. Ronalds and G. Zdenkowski (eds), The Criminal Injustice System Sydney: Australian Legal Workers Group (NSW) and Legal Service Bulletin.

Weiss, Stewart J.  (2005); Missouri V. Seibert: Two-Stepping towards the Apocalypse Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 95, 2005