The story of Ernesto Miranda

How the deliverance of the Miranda Rights, when in custody or before interrogation, became law


Any individual in the law enforcement or legal field is well-versed in what Miranda Rights are and when they are necessary. They are also widely recognized by individuals outside of law enforcement or the legal system, however, the story of the individual and the crime that eventually led to this requirement, (and when Miranda Rights are actually required to be given) tend to be ambiguous to the public. 

The crime that led to the case

Ernesto Miranda was a 23-year old Mexican immigrant living in Phoenix, AZ, when he was arrested on March 13, 1963.

Ernesto Miranda mugshot (Photo/Wikipedia)
Ernesto Miranda mugshot (Photo/Wikipedia)

Several days prior to Miranda's arrest, a young woman had been abducted and raped. During her report of the incident, she provided a description that fit Miranda and also later identified him in a lineup. After being questioned on the charges of kidnapping and rape for two hours, the officers informed Miranda that he had been positively identified by the victim. Miranda then confessed to the crimes. He also signed his confession which indicated his statement was made knowingly and voluntarily.

At the time, Miranda was unaware that a defendant could remain silent and could request to speak with an attorney before being questioned in connection to the crimes. 

The trials of Ernesto Miranda 

Miranda's signed confession was used as the primary piece of evidence during his trial and led to his conviction and sentencing of 20-30 years in prison. During the initial trial, however, there was an objection to his confession being introduced as evidence. Because Miranda was ignorant of his rights against self-incrimination, the confession should have been deemed involuntary. The case was appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court where the lower court’s ruling was upheld. 

Miranda’s case was appealed again and landed before the United States Supreme Court in early 1966. At this time, the high court reversed the lower courts’ rulings and sided with Miranda, 5-4. The court determined that due to the intimidating situation of a police interrogation, suspects need to explicitly waive their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to an attorney for their protection. It was also acknowledged that should the suspect invoke either of these rights, the interrogation must cease until an attorney arrives. 

Miranda was granted a new trial in 1967, where he still found guilty of the same crimes, despite the omission of his signed confession from evidence. 

The Ramifications

As a result of Miranda's situation, it is now mandatory that every suspect understands their rights via the deliverance of the Miranda Rights prior to any detainment and interrogation. If this is not clearly articulated, any statement made during the interrogation will be inadmissible in court.

Miranda and the Fifth Amendment

The central legal issue the arose during Miranda’s case was the question of whether the privileges against self-incrimination afforded by the 5th Amendment extend beyond criminal court proceedings and applies during a police interrogation. As the justices ultimately ruled in favor of Miranda, and the constitutional right to be protected against self-incrimination afforded by the 5th Amendment and the right to an attorney granted by the 6th Amendment are now specifically guaranteed prior to any interrogation.
 

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