You Have the Right to Remain Silent: A History of the Miranda Warning

Even if you’ve never had a run-in with law enforcement, you’re probably familiar with the words “you have the right to remain silent.” This is part of the Miranda warning, which law enforcement personnel are required to read to you if you’re taken into custody.

This warning includes three key parts:

  • The right to remain silent.
  • The right to an attorney.
  • An understanding of these rights.

Different jurisdictions have various wordings of Miranda rights, but the general wording may be:

“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 one, one will be provided for you. Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

As long as the arresting officer clearly explains the person’s rights, this may be considered a valid Miranda warning. If a defendant says or does something after being read his or her rights, this can be used against him or her in future court proceedings. If a defendant is not properly read his or her Miranda rights, however, statements or actions could be considered inadmissible (not accepted as valid).

This is why Miranda rights are so important in any criminal case.

Miranda v. Arizona: The Case That Started It All

The concept of the Miranda warning and its implementation into law enforcement procedures came from the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona.

Ernesto Miranda was arrested in the spring of 1963 on circumstantial evidence that linked him to the kidnapping and rape of an 18-year-old woman. Miranda ended up signing a confession to the crime—after two hours of police interrogation.

Miranda confessed, but without full knowledge of his legal rights.

  • He was never informed of his right to legal counsel.
  • He was not informed of his right to remain silent.
  • He was not told that what he said during interrogation could be used against him in court.

When Miranda’s case went to court and prosecutors offered the written confession as evidence, Miranda’s court-appointed lawyer objected that his confession should not be admissible because he was not informed of his rights and could not give a genuinely voluntary confession.

This objection was overruled, and Miranda was ultimately convicted of kidnapping and rape. He was sentenced to 20-30 years for each charge, to be served concurrently.

Miranda’s attorney filed an appeal with the Arizona Supreme Court based on the same claim that Miranda’s confession was not truly voluntary and should not be admitted as evidence against him, but the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed (agreed with) the trial court’s decision.

Then, a new lawyer came on the scene. Attorney John Paul Frank took on Miranda’s case and filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

A Landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision

In a 5-4 decision on June 3, 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Miranda’s conviction and sent the case back to Arizona to be tried again.

The Court ruled that Miranda’s confession was not admissible as evidence against him because it was obtained in violation of his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination and his sixth amendment right to legal counsel.

According to Miranda v. Arizona, a person in custody must be informed of his or her rights to remain silent and to legal counsel—prior to interrogation. The person must also be informed that the things he or she says can be used against him or her and that an attorney will be provided if he or she cannot afford one.

What’s more, the Court ruled that interrogations must cease immediately if a person in custody says he or she wishes to remain silent or wants an attorney. That attorney must then be present during any future questioning.

Your Miranda Rights Today

Since Miranda v. Arizona, police departments across the U.S. have been required to inform people of their rights prior to their interrogation or arrest. This is now generally called the Miranda warning or may be referred to as being “Mirandized.”

It’s been over 50 years, and Miranda v. Arizona has been challenged and undermined in various ways, but the overall concepts still hold true. If you’re arrested or are taken into custody for any reason, exercise your right to remain silent. Ask for an attorney. Remember that anything you say or do can be used against you. This can make all the difference in your case.

At Thomas & Paulk, we’ve successfully represented thousands of defendants in Tampa and throughout Florida. Our criminal defense attorneys know the nuances of the Miranda warning and how law enforcement personnel and prosecutors may try to blur the line between what’s constitutional and what’s a violation of your rights. With our knowledge and skill, we can build compelling cases even in the most challenging situations. We can take on any case, from a first-time DUI to drug trafficking, and all the way to murder.

To learn more about how we can help you, call (813) 321-7323.

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