Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision, a ruling that forever changed the way law enforcement must recognize citizen rights during an arrest. To commemorate the decision, Attorney Eric Nemecek and Law Clerk Brad Wolfe have written a piece in the newest edition of Attorney at Law Magazine® detailing the landmark case and its lasting effect on our criminal justice system.
In March 1963, Ernesto Miranda, a troubled, 18-year-old Mexican immigrant, was arrested in his home by the Phoenix Police. He was questioned for two hours at a police station concerning a local rape. While he was not physically coerced, Miranda was not made aware of his rights. He was eventually convicted of the crime and sentenced to 20 to 30 years in prison—a ruling that the Arizona Supreme Court upheld.
However, the SCOTUS saw the issue differently. In a June 1966 split decision, the court ruled that Miranda's Constitutional Rights had been violated. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote: "the person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him."
The Miranda decision (and the resulting "Miranda rights") has completely changed law enforcement and judicial procedure. Now, whenever police officers want to arrest a citizen, that citizen must be made aware of their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights before cooperating in an interrogation. As Nemecek and Wolfe write: "Over the past 50 years, the rule has weighed the importance of conducting investigations in an effort to solve crimes and promote public safety, against abusive police procedures, compromised constitutional rights and the procurement of false confessions by innocent individuals."
You can read "Miranda: A Historical Perspective" by Eric Nemecek and Brad Wolfe and in Attorney at Law Magazine® Vol. 2 No.5.
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