Ernesto Miranda was arrested in his house for kidnapping and raping a woman and brought to the police station for questioning. After about 2 hours of questioning, Miranda confessed and his written confession was later used at trial against him despite the objections of the defense attorney based on the fact that police officers did not mention to Miranda his rights to have an attorney present while interrogated. After he was found guilty, he appealed and the Supreme Court of Arizona affirmed the decision that his rights were not violated. The case made its way to the Supreme Court where Chief Justice Warren wrote the opinion of the 5-4 majority.
The question here is whether the government needs to notify a defendant of his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination before they interrogate the defendant. The Court stated that as the Constitution holds ‘’No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself’’ and that ‘’the accused should have the Assistance of Counsel’’. (Miranda v. Arizona 1966, 3). Furthermore, the Court reasoned that ,in this case, the interrogation by the police officers was not technically forceful, but that the police officers failed to ensure that Miranda’s decision to speak was his free will. Therefore, the Court held that Miranda’s Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination was violated and that in future prosecution should do certain procedural safeguards in order for a custodial interrogation to be constitutional. The proper safeguards consist of a proof that the suspect is aware of his right to remain silent as well as that any statement made will be used against him in a court of law. Furthermore, the defendant needs to know he has a right to have an attorney present and that if he does not have one, an attorney will be appointed to him and after that point, no further questions will be asked until the attorney arrives.
This caused many people to fear that the Miranda decision would interfere with the ability of the police to properly obtain confessions and convict criminals. Even in the dissenting opinion, Justice Clark argued that the Court’s decision made a very strict interpretation of the Fifth Amendment and thus made it difficult for the police to effectively do their job. I was really interested in finding out how did Miranda decision influenced future cases and the change in proficiency of police officers’ jobs. Surprisingly, several studies have shown that it has had only a small effect on the number of confessions and convictions. Namely, even after listening to the Miranda warning, most of the suspects still decide to talk to the police officers. One of the explanations could be that some of the suspects hope for a more merciful punishment or they feel guilty for what they did. Also, there is a chance that some suspects do not fully recognize and understand their Fifth Amendment rights. Therefore, it seems to me that Miranda warning became a routine for police officers and that it might even help them do a better job by making sure that all the gathered evidence will be used and confirmed in court.