Miranda Warning Card (Houston Criminal Law Journal)
Miranda Warning Card (Houston Criminal Law Journal)
Via Grace Huemme's Judicial Review Site


Miranda: The Right to Remain Silent

Also called the Miranda Warning, the Miranda Rights were established by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of the landmark case Miranda v. Arizona on June 13, 1966. Welcome to Criminal Law.


In a nutshell, the Court's decision underscored the Fifth Amendment, calling special attention to a person's right to protect themselves against self-incrimination.

The ruling further emphasized the Sixth Amendment, the right to counsel, and the Fourteenth Amendment, the right to a due process of law.

In practical terms, this decision put into place a specific code of conduct for police interrogations of suspects in custody. Law enforcement officers were now required to inform criminal suspects of their rights.


This is the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

This is the
Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.


This is Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


This is the Supreme Court of 1966:

The Supreme Court in 1966, Led by Chief Justice Earl Warren
The Supreme Court in 1966, Led by Chief Justice Earl Warren
Back Row Left to Right: Justices White, Brennan, Stewart, Fortas
Front Row Left to Right: Justices Clark, Black, Warren, Douglas, Harlan

Photo: Brooklyn College


And this is Ernesto Miranda:

Ernesto Miranda Mug Shot
Ernesto Miranda Mug Shot
Arizona Department of Corrections


Now . . .


Ernesto Miranda's Case

On March 13, 1963, in Phoenix, Arizona, Ernesto Arturo Miranda was arrested at his home.

After two hours of interrogation at a Phoenix police station, Miranda signed a written confession. This confession stated that it was made "with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make may be used against me."

At his trial before a jury, Miranda was found guilty of kidnapping and rape and was sentenced to 20 to 30 years imprisonment on each count, the sentences to run concurrently.

Miranda appealed and the case went before the Supreme Court of Arizona, which held that Miranda's constitutional rights were not violated in obtaining the confession and affirmed the conviction.

In reaching its decision, the court pointed out the fact that Miranda did not specifically request counsel.

This case went before the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed the conviction, because,

From the testimony of the officers and by the admission of respondent, it is clear that Miranda was not in any way apprised of his right to consult with an attorney and to have one present during the interrogation, nor was his right not to be compelled to incriminate himself effectively protected in any other manner.

Without these warnings the statements were inadmissible.

The mere fact that he signed a statement which contained a typed-in clause stating that he had "full knowledge" of his "legal rights" does not approach the knowing and intelligent waiver required to relinquish constitutional rights.


Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren
December 4, 1953
Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress



The Supreme Court's Decision in More Detail

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 759 (1966) was argued for three days, from February 28 - March 2, 1966. Its decision came on Monday, June 13, 1966, in favor of Miranda with 5 votes against 4.

The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Warren and joined by Justices Black, Douglas, Brennan, and Fortas.

The dissenting opinion was written by Justice Harlan and joined by Justices Stewart and White. Dissenting in part was Justice Clark.


More Than One Case

On that day, the Court decided on several similar cases. In none of these cases was the defendant given a full and effective warning of his rights before the interrogation process.

No. 759 Miranda v. Arizona (oral arguments for Miranda by John J. Flynn, for Arizona by Gary K. Nelson, also for Miranda for the National District Attorneys Association as amicus curiae Duane R. Nedrud)

No 760 Vignera v. New York

No 761 Westover v. United States

No 584 California v. Stewart


Chief Justice Warren wrote:

In the cases before us today, given this background, we concern ourselves primarily with this interrogation atmosphere and the evils it can bring.

In No. 759, Miranda v. Arizona, the police arrested the defendant and took him to a special interrogation room where they secured a confession.

In No. 760, Vignera v. New York, the defendant made oral admissions to the police after interrogation in the afternoon, and then signed an inculpatory statement upon being questioned by an assistant district attorney later the same evening.

In No. 761, Westover v. United States, the defendant was handed over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation by local authorities after they had detained and interrogated him for a lengthy period, both at night and the following morning. After some two hours of questioning, the federal officers had obtained signed statements from the defendant.

Lastly, in No. 584, California v. Stewart, the local police held the defendant five days in the station and interrogated him on nine separate occasions before they secured his inculpatory statement.


Therefore, in accordance with the foregoing, the judgments of the Supreme Court of Arizona in No. 759, of the New York Court of Appeals in No. 760, and of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in No. 761 are reversed. The judgment of the Supreme Court of California in No. 584 is affirmed.

It is so ordered.


Why For Miranda

Chief Justice Warren wrote:

The Fifth Amendment privilege is so fundamental to our system of constitutional rule and the expedient of giving an adequate warning as to the availability of the privilege so simple, we will not pause to inquire in individual cases whether the defendant was aware of his rights without a warning being given.

Assessments of the knowledge the defendant possessed, based on information as to his age, education, intelligence, or prior contact with authorities, can never be more than speculation; 38 a warning is a clearcut fact.

More important, whatever the background of the person interrogated, a warning at the time of the interrogation is indispensable to overcome its pressures and to insure that the individual knows he is free to exercise the privilege at that point in time.


As Mr. Justice Brandeis once observed:

"Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen ... "



Why Against Miranda

Mr. Justice Clark voted against Miranda. He wrote:

The obvious underpinning of the Court's decision is a deep-seated distrust of all confessions.

As the Court declares that the accused may not be interrogated without counsel present, absent a waiver of the right to counsel, and as the Court all but admonishes the lawyer to advise the accused to remain silent, the result adds up to a judicial judgment that evidence from the accused should not be used against him in any way, whether compelled or not.

This is the not so subtle overtone of the opinion -- that it is inherently wrong for the police to gather evidence from the accused himself.

And this is precisely the nub of this dissent.

I see nothing wrong or immoral, and certainly nothing unconstitutional, in the police's asking a suspect whom they have reasonable cause to arrest whether or not he killed his wife or in confronting him with the evidence on which the arrest was based, at least where he has been plainly advised that he may remain completely silent, see Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 499 (dissenting opinion).

Until today, "the admissions or confessions of the prisoner, when voluntarily and freely made, have always ranked high in the scale of incriminating evidence." Brown v. Walker, 161 U.S. 591, 596; see also Hopt v. Utah, 110 U.S. 574, 584-585.

Particularly when corroborated, as where the police have confirmed the accused's disclosure of the hiding place of implements or fruits of the crime, such confessions have the highest reliability and significantly contribute to the certitude with which we may believe the accused is guilty.

Moreover, it is by no means certain that the process of confessing is injurious to the accused. To the contrary it may provide psychological relief and enhance the prospects for rehabilitation.


The rule announced today will measurably weaken the ability of the criminal law to perform these tasks.

It is a deliberate calculus to prevent interrogations, to reduce the incidence of confessions and pleas of guilty and to increase the number of trials.


Applying the traditional standards to the cases before the Court, I would hold these confessions voluntary. I would therefore affirm in Nos. 759, 760, and 761, and reverse in No. 584.


In Practical Terms

With regards to the implementation of Miranda Warnings, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training of the State of California issued a legal guide titled Interrogation and Miranda.

Here are some excerpts from its August 10, 1995, edition:


1. Law enforcement officers sometimes add gratuitous enlargements to the Miranda warnings that may reduce opportunities to obtain an admission or confession.

The following example is what the courts have said is necessary. Police officers should ask the suspect if he understands after each part of the Miranda advisement is given.

For example:

a. "You have the right to remain silent. Do you understand?" Suspect answers.

b. "Anything you say may be used against you in court. Do you understand?" Suspect answers.

Warning a suspect that his statements may be used against him in court is sufficient; it is not necessary (or necessarily accurate) to assert that statements "can and will" be used as evidence. People v. Valdivia (1986) 180 CA3d 657, 664.

c. "You have the right to an attorney before questioning. Do you understand?" Suspect answers.

A warning that the suspect has a right to an attorney before questioning is not inadequate for failing to add that the right also applies during questioning. People v. Valdivia (1986) 180 CA3d 657, 663.

Likewise, advice as to the right to counsel "while you are being questioned" is not deficient for failing to indicate the existence of that right before questioning. People v. Kelly (1990) 51 C3d 931, 948-949.

d. "If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you free of charge, before questioning, if you wish. Do you understand?" Suspect answers.

2. It is not necessary for police officers to get express waivers from suspects before questioning. However, if police officers want express waivers, they should then ask: "Do you want to talk about what happened?"

3. Asking if the suspect wants an attorney is not necessary. Moran v. Burbine (1986) 475 US 412, 423.

4. Where a timely warning and waiver have occurred, there is no requirement that a suspect be readvised of his rights each time interrogation is renewed within a reasonably contemporaneous period. Wyrick N. Fields (1982) 459 US 42, 48.

5. Since the warnings serve to protect custodial suspects exposed to police interrogation "without the assistance of counsel," warnings are not necessary where counsel accompanies the suspect. Roberts v. U.S. (1980) 445 US 552, 560-561.

6. Miranda does not apply to questioning aimed at neutralizing an immediate threat to public or officer safety. New York v. Quarles (1984) 467 US 649, 657.

a. Not required when an officer attempts to locate a discarded firearm in a public place. US v. DeSantis (CA 9 1989) 870 F2d 536; People v. Gilliard (1987) 189 CA3d 285, 291-292.

b. Not required when officers ask questions in concern for their safety. Miranda was not required when an officer was fearful of attack and asked the suspect about dangerous weapons US v. Brady (CA 9 1984) 819 F2d 884; US v. De Santis (CA 9 1989) 870 F2d 536), or when asking a person if he had any hypodermic needles on his person before searching to avoid a hazardous substance exposure of the searching officer.

c. Not required when an officer asks questions attempting the rescue of kidnap victims.

7. Questioning by an undercover officer posing as a fellow prisoner, lacking the inherent compulsion of recognizable police interrogation, does not require warnings. Illinois v. Perkins (1990) 496 US 292, 300; People v. Wojtokowski (1985) 167 CA3d 1077, 1081.


Earl Warren Trivia

The son of Scandinavian immigrants, Earl Warren was born on March 19, 1891, in Los Angeles, CA. He died on July 9, 1974, in Washington D.C.

Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed fellow Republican, California Governor Earl Warren as the 14th chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1953. Warren served as such until 1969.

On May 17, 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Warren's Supremes ruled unanimously (9-0) against racial segregation in public schools.

On June 25, 1962, in Engel v. Vitale, Warren's Supreme Court ruled 6-1 to declare mandatory school prayer in public schools unconstitutional.

On November 29, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Earl Warren head of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, aka the Warren Commission.


What Happened to Ernest Miranda?

According to the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records:

In 1967 Miranda was retried for the kidnapping and rape charge and in 1971 for the robbery charge. He was again found guilty of all crimes. Miranda was granted parole in 1972 and was back in prison 1974-1975.

While out he made extra money by autographing and hawking the Miranda warning cards law officers used.

On the evening of January 31, 1976, Ernest Miranda was stabbed to death while in a fight over a $3 gambling pot.


Ernesto Miranda Mug Shot
Ernesto Miranda Mug Shot
Phoenix Police Museum


What Happened to the Other Guys?

According to Michael Burgan's 2007 Miranda V. Arizona: The Rights of the Accused,

Like Miranda, Michael Vignera, Carl Calvin Westover, and Roy Allen Stewart received new trials after the Supreme Court's ruling on their cases. And like Miranda, each was convicted again for their crimes.

Westover received a 30-year sentence, and Stewart was given a life sentence. Vignera, however, had his original sentence reduced from 30-60 years to 7 1/2 - 10 years.


What Else?

Here, you can read the entire text of the Supreme Court decision Miranda v. Arizona.

And here, you can visit the Phoenix Police Museum which includes a Miranda exhibit.




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