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Miranda v. Arizona

Miranda v. Arizona
Argued February 28 – March 1, 1966
Decided June 13, 1966
Full case name Miranda v. State of Arizona; Westover v. United States; Vignera v. State of New York; State of California v. Stewart
Citations 384 U.S. 436 (more)
86 S. Ct. 1602; 16 L. Ed. 2d 694; 1966 U.S. LEXIS 2817; 10 A.L.R.3d 974
Prior history Defendant . Superior Ct.; affirmed, 401 P.2d 721 (Ariz. 1965); cert. granted, 382 U.S. 925 (1965)
Subsequent history Retrial on remand, defendant convicted, Ariz. Superior Ct.; affirmed, 450 P.2d 364 (Ariz. 1969); rehearing denied, Ariz. Supreme Ct. March 11, 1969; cert. denied, 396 U.S. 868 (1969)
Argument Oral argument
The Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination requires law enforcement officials to advise a suspect interrogated in custody of his rights to remain silent and to obtain an attorney. Arizona Supreme Court reversed and remanded.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Warren, joined by Black, Douglas, Brennan, Fortas
Concur/dissent Clark
Dissent Harlan, joined by Stewart, White
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amends. V, Fourteenth Amendment

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court. In a 5–4 majority, the Court held that both inculpatory and exculpatory statements made in response to interrogation by a defendant in police custody will be admissible at trial only if the prosecution can show that the defendant was informed of the right to consult with an attorney before and during questioning and of the right against self-incrimination before police questioning, and that the defendant not only understood these rights, but voluntarily waived them.

This had a significant impact on law enforcement in the United States, by making what became known as the Miranda rights part of routine police procedure to ensure that suspects were informed of their rights. The Supreme Court decided Miranda with three other consolidated cases: Westover v. United States, Vignera v. New York, and California v. Stewart.

The Miranda warning (often abbreviated to "Miranda", or "Mirandizing" a suspect) is the name of the formal warning that is required to be given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial situation) before they are interrogated, in accordance with the Miranda ruling. Its purpose is to ensure the accused are aware of, and reminded of, these rights under the U.S. Constitution, and that they know they can invoke them at any time during the interview. The circumstances triggering the Miranda safeguards, i.e. Miranda rights, are "custody" and "interrogation". Custody means formal arrest or the deprivation of freedom to an extent associated with formal arrest. Interrogation means explicit questioning or actions that are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.

Per the U.S. Supreme Court decision Berghuis v. Thompkins (June 1, 2010), criminal suspects who are aware of their right to silence and to an attorney, but choose not to "unambiguously" invoke them, may find any subsequent voluntary statements treated as an implied waiver of their rights, and which may be used in evidence.


  • Background 1
    • Legal aid movement 1.1
    • Arrest and conviction 1.2
  • Opinion of the Supreme Court 2
    • Clark's concurrence in part, dissent in part 2.1
    • Harlan's dissent 2.2
    • White's dissent 2.3
  • Subsequent developments 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Legal aid movement

During the 1960s, a movement which provided defendants with legal aid emerged from the collective efforts of various bar associations.

In the civil realm, it led to the creation of the Legal Services Corporation under the Great Society program of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Escobedo v. Illinois, a case which closely foreshadowed Miranda, provided for the presence of counsel during police interrogation. This concept extended to a concern over police interrogation practices, which were considered by many to be barbaric and unjust. Coercive interrogation tactics were known in period slang as the "third degree".

Arrest and conviction

On March 13, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested, by the Phoenix Police Department, based on circumstantial evidence linking him to the kidnapping and rape of an eighteen-year-old girl ten days earlier.[1] After two hours of interrogation by police officers, Miranda signed a confession to the rape charge on forms that included the typed statement: "I do hereby swear that I make this statement voluntarily and of my own free will, with no threats, coercion, or promises of immunity, and with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make may be used against me."[2]

However, at no time was Miranda told of his right to counsel. Prior to being presented with the form on which he was asked to write out the confession he had already given orally, he was not advised of his right to remain silent, nor was he informed that his statements during the interrogation would be used against him. At trial, when prosecutors offered Miranda's written confession as evidence, his court-appointed lawyer, Alvin Moore, objected that because of these facts, the confession was not truly voluntary and should be excluded. Moore's objection was overruled and based on this confession and other evidence, Miranda was convicted of rape and kidnapping. He was sentenced to 20-30 years of imprisonment on each charge, with sentences to run concurrently. Moore filed Miranda's appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, claiming that Miranda's confession was not fully voluntary and should not have been admitted into the court proceedings. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision to admit the confession in State v. Miranda, 401 P.2d 721 (Ariz. 1965). In affirmation, the Arizona Supreme Court emphasized heavily the fact that Miranda did not specifically request an attorney.[3]

Opinion of the Supreme Court

Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former prosecutor, delivered the opinion of the Court, ruling that due to the coercive nature of the custodial interrogation by police (Warren cited several police training manuals which had not been provided in the arguments), no confession could be admissible under the Fifth Amendment self-incrimination clause and Sixth Amendment right to an attorney unless a suspect had been made aware of his rights and the suspect had then waived them:

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.[4]

Thus, Miranda's conviction was overturned. The Court also made clear what had to happen if the suspect chose to exercise his or her rights:

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... 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.
Justice Brennan's comments on the Miranda decision.

Warren pointed to the existing practice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the rules of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, both of which required notifying a suspect of his right to remain silent; the FBI warning included notice of the right to counsel.

However, the dissenting justices accused the majority of overreacting to the problem of coercive interrogations, and anticipated a drastic effect. They believed that, once warned, suspects would always demand attorneys, and deny the police the ability to gain confessions.

Clark's concurrence in part, dissent in part

In a separate concurrence in part, dissent in part, Justice Tom C. Clark argued that the Warren Court went "too far too fast". Instead, Justice Clark would use the "totality of the circumstances" test enunciated by Justice Goldberg in Haynes v. Washington. Under this test, the court would:

consider in each case whether the police officer prior to custodial interrogation added the warning that the suspect might have counsel present at the interrogation and, further, that a court would appoint one at his request if he was too poor to employ counsel. In the absence of warnings, the burden would be on the State to prove that counsel was knowingly and intelligently waived or that in the totality of the circumstances, including the failure to give the necessary warnings, the confession was clearly voluntary.

Harlan's dissent

In dissent, Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote that "nothing in the letter or the spirit of the Constitution or in the precedents squares with the heavy-handed and one-sided action that is so precipitously taken by the Court in the name of fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities". Harlan closed his remarks by quoting former Justice Robert H. Jackson: "This Court is forever adding new stories to the temples of constitutional law, and the temples have a way of collapsing when one story too many is added."

White's dissent

Justice Byron White took issue with the court announcing a new constitutional right when it had no "factual and textual bases" in the Constitution or previous opinions of the Court for the rule announced in the opinion. He stated: "The proposition that the privilege against self-incrimination forbids in-custody interrogation without the warnings specified in the majority opinion and without a clear waiver of counsel has no significant support in the history of the privilege or in the language of the Fifth Amendment." Nor did Justice White believe it had any basis in English common law.

White further warned of the dire consequences of the majority opinion:

I have no desire whatsoever to share the responsibility for any such impact on the present criminal process. In some unknown number of cases, the Court's rule will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets and to the environment which produced him, to repeat his crime whenever it pleases him. As a consequence, there will not be a gain, but a loss, in human dignity.

Subsequent developments

Miranda was retried after the original case against him was thrown out, and this time the prosecution, instead of using the confession, called witnesses, including Twila Hoffman, a woman with whom Miranda was living at the time of the offense, who testified that he had told her of committing the crime, and introduced other evidence.[5] Miranda was convicted in 1967 and sentenced to serve 20 to 30 years. The Supreme Court of Arizona affirmed,[6] and the United States Supreme Court denied review.[7] Miranda was paroled in 1972. After his release, he returned to his old neighborhood and made a modest living autographing police officers' "Miranda cards" which contained the text of the warning, for reading to arrestees. He was stabbed to death during an argument in a bar on January 31, 1976.[8] A suspect was arrested, but he, unlike Miranda, exercised his right to remain silent. With no evidence against him, he was released.[9]

Another three defendants whose cases had been tied in with Miranda's—an armed robber, a stick-up man, and a bank robber—either made plea bargains to lesser charges or were found guilty again despite the exclusion of their confessions.[10] Others, such as Jose Suarez, who had confessed to killing his wife and five young children, stabbing them more than a hundred times, were released.

Following the Miranda decision, the nation's police departments were required to inform arrested persons or suspects of their rights under the ruling, termed a Miranda warning.

The Miranda decision was widely criticized when it came down, as many felt it was unfair to inform suspected criminals of their rights, as outlined in the decision. Richard Nixon and other conservatives denounced Miranda for undermining the efficiency of the police, and argued the ruling would contribute to an increase in crime. Nixon, upon becoming President, promised to appoint judges who would be "strict constructionists" and who would exercise judicial restraint. Many supporters of law enforcement were angered by the decision's negative view of police officers. The federal Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 purported to overrule Miranda for federal criminal cases and restore the "totality of the circumstances" test that had prevailed previous to Miranda.[11]

The validity of this provision of the law, which is still codified at 18 U.S. Code 3501, was not ruled on for another 30 years because the Justice Department never attempted to rely on it to support the introduction of a confession into evidence at any criminal trial. Miranda was undermined by several subsequent decisions which seemed to grant several exceptions to the "Miranda warnings", undermining its claim to be a necessary corollary of the Fifth Amendment.

Since it is usually required that the suspects be asked if they understand their rights, courts have also ruled that any subsequent waiver of Miranda rights must be knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. Many American police departments have pre-printed Miranda waiver forms which a suspect must sign and date (after hearing and reading the warnings again) if an interrogation is to occur.

But the words "knowing, intelligent, and voluntary" mean only that the suspect reasonably appears to understand what he or she is doing, and is not being coerced into signing the waiver; the Court ruled in Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157 (1986) that it is irrelevant whether the suspect may actually have been insane at the time.

A confession obtained in violation of the Miranda standards may nonetheless be used for purposes of impeaching the defendant's testimony: that is, if the defendant takes the stand at trial and the prosecution wishes to introduce the defendant's confession as a prior inconsistent statement to attack the defendant's credibility, the Miranda holding will not prohibit this (see Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222 (1971)).

A "spontaneous" statement made by a defendant while in custody, even though the defendant has not been given the Miranda warnings or has invoked the right to counsel and a lawyer is not yet present, is admissible in evidence, as long as the statement was not given in response to police questioning or other conduct by the police likely to produce an incriminating response, in Rhode Island v. Innis (446 U.S. 291 (1980)).

In Berkemer v. McCarty (1984) the Supreme Court decided that a person subjected to custodial interrogation is entitled to the benefit of the procedural safeguards enunciated in Miranda, regardless of the nature or severity of the offense of which he is suspected or for which he was arrested.[12]

There is also a "public safety" exception to the requirement that Miranda warnings be given before questioning: for example, if the defendant is in possession of information regarding the location of an unattended gun or there are other similar exigent circumstances which require protection of the public, the defendant may be questioned without warning and his responses, though incriminating, will be admissible in evidence (see New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649 (1984)). In 2009 the California Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Richard Allen Davis, finding that the public safety exception applied despite the fact that 64 days had passed from the disappearance of the girl later found to be murdered.[13]

A number of empirical studies by both supporters and opponents of Miranda have concluded that the giving of Miranda warnings has little effect on whether a suspect agrees to speak to the police without an attorney. However, Miranda's opponents, notably law professor Paul Cassell, argued that letting go 3 or 4% of criminal suspects (who would be prosecuted otherwise but for defective Miranda warnings, or acting on defective waivers by defendants) is still too high a price to pay.

Miranda survived a strong challenge in Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428 (2000), where the validity of Congress's overruling of Miranda was tested. At issue was whether the Miranda warnings were actually compelled by the U.S. Constitution, or were rather merely measures enacted as a matter of judicial policy.

In Dickerson, the Court, speaking through Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, held 7–2 "the warnings have become part of our national culture". In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia argued Miranda warnings were not constitutionally required. He cited several cases demonstrating a majority of the then-current court, counting himself, and Justices Kennedy, O'Connor, and Thomas, as well as the Chief Justice (who had just delivered a contrary opinion), "[were] on record as believing that a violation of Miranda is not a violation of the Constitution".

Over time, interrogators began to think of techniques to honor the "letter" but not the "spirit" of Miranda. In the case of Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004), the Supreme Court halted one of the more controversial practices. Missouri police were deliberately withholding Miranda warnings and questioning suspects until they obtained confessions, then giving the warnings, getting waivers, and getting confessions again. Justice Souter wrote for the plurality: "Strategists dedicated to draining the substance out of Miranda cannot accomplish by training instructions what Dickerson held Congress could not do by statute."[14]

United States v. Garibay points out another important matter in regards to expansion of Miranda. Garibay was arrested and never received his warning, and no waiver of rights was granted. Garibay barely spoke English and clearly showed a lack of understanding; indeed, “...the agent admitted that he had to rephrase questions when the defendant appeared confused”.[15]

The court ruled the waiver of rights was not valid due to the defendant’s low I.Q. and poor English language skills. The court investigated many facets of his waiver and discovered that Mr. Garibay was missing all of those items that they were looking for. He never signed a waiver, he only received his warnings verbally, and in English, and no interpreter was provided although there were ones available. The lack of translated Miranda warnings adds another twist to the Miranda v. Arizona case.

Berghuis v. Thompkins is a ruling where the Supreme Court held that a suspect's "ambiguous or equivocal" statement or no statements do not mean that police must end an interrogation.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Miranda also matched the description given by a robbery victim of the perpetrator in a robbery several months earlier. He was simultaneously interrogated about both of these crimes, confessed to both, but was not asked to and did not wrote down his confession to the robbery. He was separately tried and convicted of the robbery and sentenced to 20 to 25 years of imprisonment. This crime, trial, and sentence is separate from the rape-kidnapping case appealed to the Supreme Court.
  2. ^ Michael S. Lief and H. Mitchell Caldwell "'You Have the Right to Remain Silent,'" American Heritage, August/September 2006.
  3. ^ Miranda's oral confession in the robbery case was also appealed and the Arizona Supreme Court likewise affirmed the trial court's decision to admit it in State v. Miranda, 401 P.2d 716. This case was not part of the appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.
  4. ^ Syllabus to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona, holding 1.(d).
  5. ^ State v. Miranda, 104 Ariz. 174, 176, 450 P.2d 364, 366 (1969).
  6. ^ State v. Miranda, 104 Ariz. 174, 450 P.2d 364 (1969)
  7. ^ 396 U.S. 868 (1969).
  8. ^
  9. ^ Charles Montaldo, Miranda Rights and Warning: Landmark Case Evolved from 1963 Ernesto Miranda Arrest,; accessed 13 June 2014.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420 (1984))
  13. ^ People vs. Davis, S056425
  14. ^ Hosted by Duke Law
  15. ^
  16. ^ Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370 (2010)

Further reading

External links

  • Text of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) is available from:  Findlaw  Justia  Cornell LII 
  • Oral arguments from
  • Article from Common Sense Americanism on decision
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