Of all the legal terms and phrases that have made their way into everyday vernacular, “Miranda” is undoubtedly one of the most well-known. Even the most law-abiding citizens have some idea what your “Miranda rights” refer to given how often the term is used in the news and on television shows. Despite how familiar the term is, however, there are some important misconceptions relating to what rights are included in your Miranda rights, when those rights apply, and what happens if you are not informed of those rights by a law enforcement officer. The Omaha criminal defense attorneys at Petersen Law Office explain your Miranda rights as well as what happens if you are not advised of those rights.
The Case That Started It All — Miranda Vs. Arizona
Your “Miranda rights” are referred to as such after the Supreme Court case (Miranda vs. Arizona, 384 US 436, 1966) that required law enforcement officers to advise suspects/arrestees of those rights. The case revolved around the arrest of Phoenix resident Ernesto Miranda in 1963. Ernesto, had not finished ninth grade and had a history of mental instability, was charged with rape, kidnapping, and robbery. The police did not inform Miranda that he had any rights prior to beginning a two-hour interrogation during which Miranda allegedly confessed to committing the crimes. Miranda had no counsel present before, or during, the interrogation. When the case went to trial, the prosecutions entire case was based on Ernesto’s alleged confession. Despite this, Miranda was convicted of rape and kidnapping and sentenced to 20-30 years in prison. He appealed, claiming that the confession was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights and was, therefore, inadmissible. That appeal was eventually heard by the U.S. Supreme Court who, in a 5-4 decision, agreed with Miranda.
Specifically, the Court held that the police had failed to first inform Miranda of his right to an attorney and against self-incrimination. The Court further found that the 5th Amendment’s right against self-incrimination and the 6th Amendment’s right to counsel compelled the police to give a suspect warnings about their rights before the police question them. Without these two fundamental rights, both of which, the Court ruled, “dispel the compulsion inherent in custodial surroundings,” “no statement obtained from the defendant can truly be the product of his free choice.” Finally, the court actually included a statement to illustrate, at a bare minimum, what the police must tell a suspect before questioning the suspect. That statement quickly became known as your “Miranda warnings.” The U.S. Supreme Court, in Miranda, made it clear that a law enforcement officer must tell a suspect the following prior to questioning:
You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
You have the right to an attorney.
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.