Miranda v. Arizona eText - Primary Source

Primary Source

Ernesto Miranda (right) leaves a Phoenix court with his attorney. Miranda confessed to raping a girl after police misled him to believe they had sufficient evidence against him. Though the Supreme Court held that his confession was inadmissable, Miranda wErnesto Miranda (right) leaves a Phoenix court with his attorney. Miranda confessed to raping a girl after police misled him to believe they had sufficient evidence against him. Though the Supreme Court held that his confession was inadmissable, Miranda was later retried and found guilty of the crime on evidence uncovered later. © BETTMANN/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Published by Gale Cengage © BETTMANN/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.

Supreme Court decision

By: Earl Warren

Date: June 13, 1966

Source: Warren, Earl. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436. Available online at http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case... ; website home page: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com (accessed June 11, 2003).

About the Author: Earl Warren (1891–1974) received his bachelor's degree from the University of California in 1912 and his law degree there two years later. After three years in private practice, he joined the army in 1917, then began a career in government as deputy city attorney for Oakland. From 1945 to 1953, he was governor of California. He became chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1953, a position he held until 1969. The Warren Court is synonymous with expansion of civil rights and civil liberties.

Introduction

The Bill of Rights, added to the U.S. Constitution in 1791, outlines the rights of all Americans, but the meaning

and extent of those rights was not always apparent, especially in criminal cases. The average person involved in the criminal justice system could not always be expected to know and understand those rights, particularly because, until the 1960s, different criminal procedures and constitutional protections applied at the state and federal levels, creating in effect fifty-one different sets of constitutional protections. Further, the police often had incentives for encouraging people not to assert their rights, especially the right to remain silent or to contact an attorney, because police officers with higher rates of cleared cases were promoted and commended. It also remained unclear whether the Constitution required that accused persons be informed of their rights.

In the 1960s, the Warren Court began increasing the constitutional protections for criminal defendants and applying the same level of constitutional protections to defendants whether they were in state or federal court. In 1963, the Warren Court, following the recommendation of twenty-three states that were unsure about when indigent defendants should be appointed counsel, held that the right to counsel was fundamental to a fair trial. In 1964, the Court applied the right against self-incrimination, which had existed for decades in federal court, to state court matters. That same year, it held that a confession obtained when a defendant was not able to consult a lawyer and was not informed of the right to remain silent was inadmissible in state courts. Finally, in 1966, in Miranda, the Supreme Court considered whether in all cases the police were required to inform defendants of their rights.

Significance

The Supreme Court concluded that defendants must be informed of their rights: their right to remain silent and the fact that statements they made might be used against them, their right to consult an attorney, and their right to have an attorney appointed if they could not afford one. This warning is generally known as the " Miranda warning." The Supreme Court has generally upheld the Miranda warning in the thirty-seven years since it has been announced. Some conservative politicians and "law and order" advocates have denounced the Miranda requirement as a way for criminals to "get off" and have linked it with a rise in the crime rate. However, social science research has found no such link, and it is clear that the number of coerced confessions by innocent defendants has decreased.

For example, the Supreme Court in 1977 threw out a confession that was made without the assistance of counsel and without a Miranda warning, even though the confession was unsolicited. In later years, though, the Supreme Court slightly narrowed the Miranda requirement by allowing the confession of a mentally ill defendant and a confession obtained through police misrepresentation. In the 1990s, the Rehnquist Court generally continued these trends. It held that while a coerced confession could not be used against a defendant, the use of such a confession in a trial did not automatically create grounds for reversal, as the "totality of the circumstances" needed to be considered. The Court suggested that the admission of such a confession might simply be a "harmless error."

Primary Source: Miranda v. Arizona [excerpt]

SYNOPSIS: Justice Warren, writing for the majority, first argues that the purpose of interrogation is to force a confession. He suggests that the privilege against self-incrimination is important and available throughout the judicial process. To safeguard one's rights, Warren holds, the defendant must be informed of his rights before interrogation begins, including the right to remain silent and the right to counsel. Warren suggests that individual rights exist and should not be "weighed" against those of society.

Mr. Chief Justice Warren delivered the opinion of the Court.…

An understanding of the nature and setting of… in-custody interrogation is essential to our decisions today. The difficulty in depicting what transpires at such interrogations stems from the fact that in this country they have largely taken place incommunicado. From extensive factual studies undertaken in the early 1930's, including the famous Wickersham Report to Congress by a Presidential Commission, it is clear that police violence and the "third degree" flourished at that time.…

… [W]e stress that the modern practice of in-custody interrogation is psychologically rather than physically oriented.… Interrogation still takes place in privacy. Privacy results in secrecy and this in turn results in a gap in our knowledge as to what in fact goes on in the interrogation rooms.…

… [T]he setting … observed in practice becomes clear. In essence, it is this: To be alone with the subject is essential to prevent distraction and to deprive him of any outside support. The aura of confidence in his guilt undermines his will to resist. He merely confirms the preconceived story the police seek to have him describe. Patience and persistence, at times relentless questioning, are employed. To obtain a confession, the interrogator must "patiently maneuver himself or his quarry into a position from which the desired objective may be attained." When normal procedures fail to produce the needed result, the police may resort to deceptive stratagems such as giving false legal advice. It is important to keep the subject off balance, for example, by trading on his insecurity about himself or his surroundings. The police then persuade, trick, or cajole him out of exercising his constitutional rights.

Even without employing brutality, the "third degree" or the specific stratagems described above, the very fact of custodial interrogation exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty and trades on the weakness of individuals.…

It is obvious that such an interrogation environment is created for no purpose other than to subjugate the individual to the will of his examiner. This atmosphere carries its own badge of intimidation. To be sure, this is not physical intimidation, but it is equally destructive of human dignity. The current practice of incommunicado interrogation is at odds with one of our Nation's most cherished principles—that the individual may not be compelled to incriminate himself. Unless adequate protective devices are employed to dispel the compulsion inherent in custodial surroundings, no statement obtained from the defendant can truly be the product of his free choice.…

We sometimes forget how long it has taken to establish the privilege against self-incrimination, the sources from which it came and the fervor with which it was defended.…

Thus we may view the historical development of the privilege as one which groped for the proper scope of governmental power over the citizen.… All these policies point to one overriding thought: the constitutional foundation underlying the privilege is the respect a government—state or federal—must accord to the dignity and integrity of its citizens.…

Today, then, there can be no doubt that the Fifth Amendment privilege is available outside of criminal court proceedings and serves to protect persons in all settings in which their freedom of action is curtailed in any significant way from being compelled to incriminate themselves. We have concluded that without proper safeguards the process of in-custody interrogation of persons suspected or accused of crime contains inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual's will to resist and to compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely. In order to combat these pressures and to permit a full opportunity to exercise the privilege against self-incrimination, the accused must be adequately and effectively apprised of his rights and the exercise of those rights must be fully honored.…

At the outset, if a person in custody is to be subjected to interrogation, he must first be informed in clear and unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain silent. For those unaware of the privilege, the warning is needed simply to make them aware of it—the threshold requirement for an intelligent decision as to its exercise. More important, such a warning is an absolute prerequisite in overcoming the inherent pressures of the interrogation atmosphere. It is not just the subnormal or woefully ignorant who succumb to an interrogator's imprecations, whether implied or expressly stated, that the interrogation will continue until a confession is obtained or that silence in the face of accusation is itself damning and will bode ill when presented to a jury. Further, the warning will show the individual that his interrogators are prepared to recognize his privilege should he choose to exercise it.…

The warning of the right to remain silent must be accompanied by the explanation that anything said can and will be used against the individual in court. This warning is needed in order to make him aware not only of the privilege, but also of the consequences of forgoing it. It is only through an awareness of these consequences that there can be any assurance of real understanding and intelligent exercise of the privilege. Moreover, this warning may serve to make the individual more acutely aware that he is faced with a phase of the adversary system—that he is not in the presence of persons acting solely in his interest.

The … right to have counsel present at the interrogation is indispensable to the protection of the Fifth Amendment privilege under the system we delineate today.… Thus, the need for counsel to protect the Fifth Amendment privilege comprehends not merely a right to consult with counsel prior to questioning, but also to have counsel present during any questioning if the defendant so desires.…

An individual need not make a pre-interrogation request for a lawyer. While such request affirmatively secures his right to have one, his failure to ask for a lawyer does not constitute a waiver. No effective waiver of the right to counsel during interrogation can be recognized unless specifically made after the warnings we here delineate have been given. The accused who does not know his rights and therefore does not make a request may be the person who most needs counsel.…

Accordingly we hold that an individual held for interrogation must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation under the system for protecting the privilege we delineate today…. If an individual indicates that he wishes the assistance of counsel before any interrogation occurs, the authorities cannot rationally ignore or deny his request on the basis that the individual does not have or cannot afford a retained attorney. The financial ability of the individual has no relationship to the scope of the rights involved here. The privilege against self-incrimination secured by the Constitution applies to all individuals. The need for counsel in order to protect the privilege exists for the indigent as well as the affluent.…

In order fully to apprise a person interrogated of the extent of his rights under this system then, it is necessary to warn him not only that he has the right to consult with an attorney, but also that if he is indigent a lawyer will be appointed to represent him. Without this additional warning, the admonition of the right to consult with counsel would often be understood as meaning only that he can consult with a lawyer if he has one or has the funds to obtain one. The warning of a right to counsel would be hollow if not couched in terms that would convey to the indigent—the person most often subjected to interrogation—the knowledge that he too has a right to have counsel present.…

Once warnings have been given, the subsequent procedure is clear. 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. At this point he has shown that he intends to exercise his Fifth Amendment privilege; any statement taken after the person invokes his privilege cannot be other than the product of compulsion, subtle or otherwise. Without the right to cut off questioning, the setting of in-custody interrogation operates on the individual to overcome free choice in producing a statement after the privilege has been once invoked. 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. If the individual cannot obtain an attorney and he indicates that he wants one before speaking to police, they must respect his decision to remain silent.…

The warnings required and the waiver necessary in accordance with our opinion today are, in the absence of a fully effective equivalent, prerequisites to the admissibility of any statement made by a defendant.… The principles announced today deal with the protection which must be given to the privilege against self-incrimination when the individual is first subjected to police interrogation while in custody at the station or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way. It is at this point that our adversary system of criminal proceedings commences, distinguishing itself at the outset from the inquisitorial system recognized in some countries. Under the system of warnings we delineate today or under any other system which may be devised and found effective, the safeguards to be erected about the privilege must come into play at this point.

Our decision is not intended to hamper the traditional function of police officers in investigating crime.…

To summarize, we hold that when an individual is taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom by the authorities in any significant way and is subjected to questioning, the privilege against self-incrimination is jeopardized. Procedural safeguards must be employed to protect the privilege, and unless other fully effective means are adopted to notify the person of his right of silence and to assure that the exercise of the right will be scrupulously honored, the following measures are required. He must be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires. Opportunity to exercise these rights must be afforded to him throughout the interrogation. After such warnings have been given, and such opportunity afforded him, the individual may knowingly and intelligently waive these rights and agree to answer questions or make a statement. But unless and until such warnings and waiver are demonstrated by the prosecution at trial, no evidence obtained as a result of interrogation can be used against him.

A recurrent argument made in these cases is that society's need for interrogation outweighs the privilege. This argument is not unfamiliar to this Court.…

In announcing these principles, we are not un-mindful of the burdens which law enforcement officials must bear, often under trying circumstances. We also fully recognize the obligation of all citizens to aid in enforcing the criminal laws. This Court, while protecting individual rights, has always given ample latitude to law enforcement agencies in the legitimate exercise of their duties. The limits we have placed on the interrogation process should not constitute an undue interference with a proper system of law enforcement. As we have noted, our decision does not in any way preclude police from carrying out their traditional investigatory functions.

Further Resources

BOOKS

Cray, Ed. Chief Justice: A Biography of Earl Warren. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997.

Horwitz, Morton J. The Warren Court and the Pursuit of Justice: A Critical Issue. New York: Hill and Wang, 1998.

Leo, Richard A., and George C. Thomas. The Miranda Debate: Law, Justice, and Policing. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998.

Powe, L.A. Scot. The Warren Court and American Politics. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000.

Schwartz, Bernard. The Warren Court: A Retrospective. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Warren, Earl. The Memoirs of Earl Warren. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977.

White, Welsh S. Miranda's Waning Protections: Police Interrogation Practices after Dickerson. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 2001.

Wice, Paul B. Miranda v. Arizona: "You Have the Right to Remain Silent." New York: Franklin Watts, 1996.

WEBSITES

Miranda vs Arizona: The Crime That Changed American Justice. Available online at http://www.crimelibrary.com/classics4/miranda/8.htm; website home page: http://www.crimelibrary.com/ (accessed January 21, 2003).