Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)
Under the Fifth Amendment, any statements that a defendant in custody makes during an interrogation are admissible as evidence at a criminal trial only if law enforcement told the defendant of the right to remain silent and the right to speak with an attorney before the interrogation started, and the rights were either exercised or waived in a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent manner.
Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix due to circumstantial evidence that he had been involved in a kidnapping and rape. He confessed to the charges following a lengthy interrogation and signed a statement that said the confession was made knowingly and voluntarily. Miranda never was told of his right to remain silent, of his right to have a lawyer, or of the fact that any of his statements during the interrogation could be used against him in court. He objected to the introduction of the written copy of his confession into evidence at trial, stating that his ignorance of his rights made the confession involuntary.
When the objection was overruled, Miranda was convicted of the kidnapping and rape at least in part because of the written confession, and he was sentenced to 20-30 years in prison. An appeal based on the confession's allegedly involuntary nature was rejected by the Arizona Supreme Court.
- Alvin Moore (defendant)
- Earl Warren (Author)
- Hugo Lafayette Black
- William Orville Douglas
- William Joseph Brennan, Jr.
- Abe Fortas
Warren felt that a police interrogation is such an intimidating situation for most suspects that it triggered the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to an attorney unless the suspect waived those rights. The opinion also emphasized the need for law enforcement to strictly comply with those rights if a suspect exercises them. Since this decision followed Gideon v. Wainwright, which held that there was an absolute right to counsel for indigent criminal defendants, the right to an attorney included the appointment of a public defender if the suspect was indigent. Exercising the right to an attorney also expanded that Sixth Amendment protection to having an attorney during questioning after arrest and before trial, not a situation that Gideon contemplated. As part of the foundation for his reasoning, Warren used FBI practices and rules governing interrogations of military service members suspected of crimes.
- Tom C. Clark (Author)
Clark was uneasy about what appeared to be a sweeping rule that the majority had created. He advocated using a totality of the circumstances standard from the decision in Haynes v. Washington. This would permit a court to make a case-by-case evaluation while placing the burden on the state to show that the Miranda rights were waived or that the confession was voluntary under the specific circumstances.
- John Marshall Harlan II (Author)
Harlan felt that the majority opinion was an example of impermissible judicial activism, since it lacked support in the text of the Constitution or other law. He argued that creating entire doctrines through inference reduced the legitimacy of constitutional law overall.
- Byron Raymond White (Author)
Echoing Harlan, White noted that the majority not only had no textual foundation in the Constitution for its opinion but also lacked any Court precedents. He even researched English common law to confirm that it contained no support for Warren. White ominously observed that the majority's rule, if diligently applied, could lead to serious criminals escaping justice.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.
U.S. Supreme CourtMiranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)
Miranda v. Arizona
Argued February 28-March 1, 1966
Decided June 13, 1966*
384 U.S. 436
In each of these cases, 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. In all four cases, the questioning elicited oral admissions, and, in three of them, signed statements as well, which were admitted at their trials. All defendants were convicted, and all convictions, except in No. 584, were affirmed on appeal.
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. Pp. 444-491.
(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 defendant can truly be the product of his free choice. Pp. 445-458.
(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. Pp. 458-465.
(c) The decision in Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U. S. 478, stressed the need for protective devices to make the process of police interrogation conform to the dictates of the privilege. Pp. 465-466.
(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. Pp. 467-473.
(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. Pp. 473-474.
(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. P. 475.
(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. Pp. 475-476.
(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. Pp. 476-477.
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. Pp. 479-491.
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. Pp. 491-499.