The Controversial History of ‘Miranda Rights’

The ‘Miranda Rights’ are the list of constitutionally protected rights that Police Officers must read to you before custodial interrogation can formally begin. If you have ever watched a police show on TV, or perhaps 21 Jump Street, you will certainly recognise these. But where how did they become a Law Enforcement requirement?

Miranda Warning

The Miranda Rights, listed above, came into requirement after a Supreme Court case in the United States: Miranda v. Arizona 1966. The case concerned one Ernesto Miranda (in the feature picture of this article), who had been arrested by the Phoenix PD based on circumstantial evidence linking him to the kidnapping and rape of an eighteen-year-old just over a week before. 2 Hours into his interrogation by the police, Miranda confessed and signed a confession on both charges. However, it came to light that he had never been informed of his right to remain silent, or his right to an attorney during questioning.

It was when his court appointed attorney, Alvin Moore, found out about this that the case was appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court. It affirmed the use of Miranda’s confession in his case and he was sentenced to 20-30 years on each charge. Attorney John Paul Frank represented Miranda’s case in an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. The court decided, 5-4, that the conviction was in violation of the 5th Amendment ‘Self-Incrimination’ clause, and subsequently unconstitutional. The conviction was overturned, and despite admitting to kidnapping and raping an eighteen-year-old, Miranda walked free.

‘No person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself’

-Self Incrimination Clause, 5th Amendment of the US Constitution

He was retried in 1967 and convicted legally, once again sentenced to 20-30 years, but only served 5 and was paroled in 1972. Ironically, when Miranda was stabbed to death after an argument at a bar in 1976, the lead suspect exorcised his Miranda right to silence, and was released due to insufficient evidence.

From then onwards, police were required to inform suspects of their rights before interrogation. Many have pre-printed waiver forms that suspects must sign to ensure that the case of Miranda is never repeated. Contrary to popular belief, studies from the 1960’s and 1970’s in particular show that the establishment of the Miranda rights have had no effect on the Law Enforcement’s ability to solve crimes.


By Kieran Kelly 

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