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Miranda: Rights of Silence

Why the police have to "Read him his rights." 


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A cop points at you and says, "Read him his rights." From TV, you know this is not good. You know that you have been taken into police custody and are about to be informed of your "Miranda Rights" prior to being questioned. Fine, but what are these rights, and what did "Miranda" do to get them for you?

How We Got Our Miranda Rights

On March 13, 1963, $8.00 in cash was stolen from a Phoenix, Arizona bank worker. Police suspected and arrested Ernesto Miranda for committing the theft.

During two-hours of questioning, Mr. Miranda, who was never offered a lawyer, confessed not only to the $8.00 theft, but also to kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old woman 11 days earlier.

Based largely on his confession, Miranda was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in jail.

Miranda's attorneys appealed. First unsuccessfully to the Arizona Supreme Court, and next to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On June 13, 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court, in deciding the case of MIRANDA v. ARIZONA, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), reversed the Arizona Court's decision, granted Miranda a new trial at which his confession could not be admitted as evidence, and established the "Miranda" rights of persons accused of crimes. Keep reading, because the story of Ernesto Miranda has a most ironic ending.

Two earlier cases involving police activity and the rights of individuals clearly influenced the Supreme Court in the Miranda decision:

Mapp v. Ohio (1961): Looking for someone else, Cleveland, Ohio Police entered Dollie Mapp's home. Police did not find their suspect, but arrested Ms. Mapp for possessing obscene literature. Without a warrant to search for the literature, Ms. Mapp's conviction was thrown out.

Escobedo v. Illinois (1964): After confessing to a murder during questioning, Danny Escobedo changed his mind and informed police that he wanted to talk to a lawyer. When police documents were produced showing that officers had been trained to ignore the rights of suspects during questioning, the Supreme Court ruled that Escobedo's confession could not be used as evidence.

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