WHAT RIGHTS SHOULD AN
ACCUSED PERSON HAVE?
MIRANDA VS. ARIZONA (1966)
Police offers try to obtain confessions from suspects. Yet, the Fifth Amendment protects people from self-incrimination-stating facts that will result in their being accused of a crime. The Sixth Amendment gives them the right to an attorney. How those do guaranteed rights come into play when a person is being questioned by police?
The Facts The Issue The Decision
• Ernesto Miranda, under questioning by police, confessed that he had kidnapped and assaulted a woman
• Miranda was convicted in state court of the crimes in part because of the confession • Miranda claimed the confession should not be used because police had not warned him of his right to avoid self-incrimination or to have a lawyer present The Court ruled 5:4 that the conviction should be thrown out because police had violated Miranda’s rights when it obtained the confession
WHY IT MATTERS
The majority based its reasoning on “The necessity for procedures which assure” the protection of the Fifth Amendment rights. It spelled out those procedures:
“Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney.”
That statement is familiar to many Americans from hearing it on television crime dramas. The majority also ruled that people who request a lawyer must be provided with one, even if they are too poor to pay for one themselves.
The decision has had a profound effect on the criminal justice system. Police officers must inform suspects of their rights. Only then can statements made by the suspect ne used in a trial.
CONNECT TO YOUR WORLD
The Court addressed the issue of confessions by minors in Yarborough v. Alvarado (2004). Research the case. Write a summary that explains the facts, the Court’s decision, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s concerns about the rights of minors, and the views of the dissent.