3.13.2011

Miranda v. Arizona

Miranda v. Arizona
Tabetha Cooper

A landmark case changes the existing law significantly. It can also change how our due process is conducted. To clarify, due process is “the conduct of legal proceedings according to established rules and principles for the enforcement and protection of our private rights.” (Black’s Law Dictionary, 1999, pg. 576).
The Bill of Rights guarantees that everyone has the right to due process. The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark case Miranda v. Arizona 384 U.S. 436 (1966) changed our due process by adding additional procedures to how law enforcement handles a suspect and by ensuring we know our rights as Americans.
The case of Miranda v. Arizona came about when a man by the name of Earnest Miranda was arrested and charged for the kidnapping and rape of a young woman. Miranda was a twenty-three year old man with an eighth grade education and a criminal past. Because of his criminal past, the arresting Officers, Young and Cooley, assumed Miranda knew about his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. The Fifth Amendment of the constitution gives a person residing in the United States, among other things, the right against self-incrimination. The Sixth Amendment gives the right to counsel as well as the right to have counsel provided in the event a person cannot afford to hire their own.
Upon interrogation, Miranda confessed to the rape and kidnapping of the young woman; he even signed a written confession stating such. It was only at the time that he signed this confession that he finally signed a paper that listed his rights and the fact that he understood them. At Miranda’s trial, the officers took the stand and admitted that they did not let him know about his rights and also that in Arizona at that time it was standard procedure to do so. Miranda appealed his conviction at every level and failed until he made his way to the U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals. In his appeal, Miranda’s representative counsel stated that he had not been talked into admitting that he kidnapped and raped this young woman, but that his confession shouldn’t have counted against him because he didn’t know that he had the right against self-in-crimination, or that he had right to have counsel present during questioning.
This case was heard before the Warren Court, and upon listening to a portion of an oral recorded transcript of it, I heard four lawyers’ presented arguments. The first to present his argument was Miranda’s attorney. He stated that a man with only an eighth grade education couldn’t be expected to know his rights, and by not informing him of them, they robbed him of his due process. The second attorney to give his argument stated that he willingly gave and signed his confession and additionally was given a paper that stated his rights and asked if he understood them. The third attorney to give argument was from New York. He agreed that Miranda should have been told that he had a right to counsel to ensure his due process, and since he wasn’t, the case should be re-considered. The last attorney to present his argument stated that it should not be the police’s job to let a suspect know he has the right to counsel. If he asks for counsel he should not be denied but it shouldn’t be offered to him. He went even further to argue that an attorney should not even be allowed to get involved in a case prior to the interrogation stage. His reasoning for this was that an attorney for a suspect had the job of doing whatever it takes to get his client out of the charges, and that by allowing the attorney to be present there would be a lot more guilty people walking free.
Residing on the bench for the Warren Court, at least for the decision of this case, were nine men. Upon voting, five were in favor of what are now referred to as Miranda Warnings and four were not. The five that voted in favor of the Miranda Warnings were Warren himself, Black, Douglas, Brennan, and Fortas. The four opposed to Miranda Warnings were Clark, Harlan, Stewart, and White. The five men in favor of this ruling thought that in order to ensure the Bill of Rights, a suspect must fully understand the rights given to him. The Bill of Rights are defined as “a section or addendum in a constitution, defining the situations in which a politically organized society will permit free, spontaneous, and individual activity, and guaranteeing the governmental powers will not be used in certain ways.” (Black’s Law Dictionary, 1999, pg. 160). Also According to Black’s Law Dictionary (1999), in the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights are the first Ten Amendments, although other sources state that the first Fourteen Amendments are considered the Bill or Rights.
As a result of the ruling of the Miranda v. Arizona case, the Miranda Rule came into play. The Miranda Rule states that a suspect in the custody of the police must be informed of certain constitutional rights; specifically, the rights given to us by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the Constitution. Also, as a result of this ruling, law enforcement must read a suspect his Miranda Warnings prior to interrogation. If this is not done, any information given by a suspect during interrogation cannot be used in a court of law against that person. The Warren court decided that officers must notify the suspect of the following prior to interrogation:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions, and to have him with you during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer questions now w/o a lawyer present, you will have the right to stop answering at any time. You also have the right to stop answering at any time and may talk w/ a lawyer before deciding to speak again. Do you wish to talk or not? Do you want a lawyer?”
The above Miranda rights were incorporated into the due process after the ruling was made in the Miranda v. Arizona case in 1966.
In the history of law, there have been many landmark cases that have changed our due process. The Miranda case is certainly one of the most important when it comes to the rights of Americans during court proceedings. The interpretation of the law changes as time goes by and can be interpreted differently from person to person. In the future it will be interesting to see if there are more landmark cases such as the Miranda v. Arizona that will change the way things are done.
References
www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1965_759, retrieved 8/26/09
www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1965_759, oral recording, retrieved 8/26/09
Editor in chief Garner, B.A., Black’s Law Dictionary, (1999), retrieved 8/28/09
Schmalleger, F. (2007). Criminal Justice Today, An Introductory Text for the 21st Century (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Retrieved 7/29/09 and again on 8/27/09
www.landmarkcases.org/miranda/pdf/miranda_v_arizona.pdf, retrieved 8/26/09
caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=384&invol=436, retrieved 8/29/09

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