Your Miranda Rights Part One – The History
We’ve all heard the Miranda Rights read aloud on a criminal-drama TV series by a police officer upon the arrest of a suspect. Hopefully, you haven’t had these words read aloud in person! It goes as such: “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 provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” In this short, two-part blog series, Todd Coolidge— a criminal law specialist in Arizona —would like to inform you about when and how the Miranda Rights came into existence, and what the Miranda Rights mean for you if you are ever arrested. In Part One we’ll deal with the history.
Where Did the Miranda Rights Come From?
If you live in the Grand Canyon State, the history of the Miranda Rights began in your backyard in a landmark court case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court called Miranda v. Arizona. But, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s rewind for a moment. In 1963, a man named Ernesto Miranda had been picked out of a lineup of possible criminal suspects for a crime involving robbery, kidnapping and rape. In the initial police interrogation that lasted nearly two hours, Miranda confessed to the crimes without a lawyer present. With his sworn, written confession as the only piece of evidence in the State of Arizona’s case, Miranda was tried and convicted.
Before the Miranda Rights were enacted, a criminal defendant relied upon the upholding of the Sixth Amendment, which, among other things, states that the criminal defendant has certain rights including the right to a lawyer. Miranda, however, had shot himself in the foot so to speak, when he included in his written confession that he was made aware of his right to a lawyer.
Six months after Miranda lost his case and was sentenced for his crimes, his lawyer, Alvin Moore, appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, posing the questions: “Was [Miranda’s] statement made voluntarily?” and “Was [he] afforded all the safeguards to his rights provided by the Constitution of the United States and the law and rules of the courts?”
This time around, Miranda’s case caught the attention of some prominent lawyers in Arizona, namely Robert Corcoran and John J. Flynn. At the heart of their case, were the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Corcoran and Flynn were effectively able to argue that the rights within these Amendments were not explicitly made known to Miranda with absolute clarity at the time of his arrest and confession. As a result, on June 13th, 1966 the Supreme Court agreed in a 5-4 ruling, that Miranda’s testimony could not be used as evidence in a criminal trial. In addition, procedure was put into place to ensure defendants were clearly read their rights before being detained or interrogated, known today as the Miranda Warning.
Knowing you have certain rights outlined by the Miranda Warning and understanding those rights are two very different things. In our next blog post, we will dig deeper into how you can fully take advantage of your rights should you be arrested. And if you find yourself in a bind, exercise your right to a lawyer by contacting Todd Coolidge, a criminal law specialist in Arizona.