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Why Are Miranda Rights Important?

History of Miranda Rights — Who Was Ernesto Miranda?

Ernesto Miranda was a laborer who in 1963 was arrested and charged with the kidnapping and rape of Lois Ann Jameson. The victim’s brother had given police a description of Miranda’s truck, and reported seeing it to police in Phoenix, Arizona.

Miranda was arrested and taken to the police station where he voluntarily participated in a lineup. He was a person of interest and was not in custody.

After the lineup Miranda asked police how he did, and the police implied that he was positively identified. Miranda then confessed to the crime after 2 hours of interrogation without having been informed of his rights.

Miranda identified the victim; she identified hs voice; and Miranda wrote down his confession. The top of the confession sheet stated “[This statement has been made voluntarily and of my own free will, with no threats, coercion or promises of immunity and with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make can and will be used against me.]”

Despite the writing on the confession documents, Miranda was never informed of his right to have an attorney present or of his right to remain silent.

Miranda’s attorney objected to the use of the confession at trial, but was overruled. At trial, Miranda was convicted of kidnapping and rape received a sentence of 20 to 30 years in prison.

Miranda appealed his case to the Arizona Supreme Court, but the conviction was upheld.

Miranda then petitioned the United States Supreme Court to hear his case. He was represented pro bono by the ACLU, whose lawyers argued that Miranda’s Fifth Amendment rights had been violated.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, along with three other similar cases, to clarify its ruling in Escobedo v. Illinois, where the court stated that it was a violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments when police do not give a suspect an opportunity to consult with a lawyer and do not warn a suspect of their constitutional right to remain silent.

Miranda’s lawyers added a claim under the Fifth Amendment because Miranda had not been advised of his right to remain silent when he had been arrested and questioned, noting that an emotionally disturbed man like Miranda, who was not well educated, could not be expected to know his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Miranda, finding that a suspect who is in custody must be warned, before interrogation, of his right to remain silent, that anything he says will be used against him in court; that he has a right to consult with a lawyer during the interrogation, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed.  

As a result of the Miranda decision, police officers around the country give some version of the Miranda warnings to all suspects who are taken into custody. These warnings include elements of the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, the Sixth Amendment’s right to a lawyer, and the 14th Amendment’s application of the ruling to all 50 states.

Each state has its own version of the Miranda warning, which is only issued when a suspect is actually taken into custody. Importantly, this means that anything said to a police officer before a suspect is taken into custody and read the Miranda rights can be used in a court of law. This includes interviews freely given to the police in which a suspect is free to leave the police station, as well as conversations with police officers at the scene of a crime.  

What Is the Right to an Attorney?

The constitutional right to an attorney is enshrined in the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, which provides that the accused shall have the “assistance of counsel” in all criminal proceedings. This means that any criminal defendant has the constitutional right to be represented by an attorney.

While the right to an attorney is often discussed in the context of a trial, you have the right to have a lawyer present at all stages of a criminal investigation, including criminal investigations, arrest, and interrogations, through trial and the first appeal.

The role of a criminal defense attorney is a critically important one, especially in cases where a defendant faces the possibility of incarceration.

While a lawyer’s role will vary based on the type of case and the charges presented, you can expect that an attorney will:

  • Advise her client about his rights and what he can expect at all phases of the prosecution
  • Ensure that her client’s rights are not violated, whether by law enforcement, during court proceedings, or even by her client himself
  • Negotiate a plea bargain for her client
  • Investigate the facts and evidence, cross-examine witnesses, object to improper questions and evidence, and present legal defenses

What Is the Right to Remain Silent?

The right to remain silent comes from the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution and means that a person has the right to refuse to answer questions from law enforcement. The Fifth Amendment right to silence applies primarily at trial, where a defendant cannot be forced to provide testimony that would incriminate him.

In the context of a criminal investigation; however, a suspect can and should assert his right to remain silent any time he is under investigation for a crime. In many cases it is beneficial for the the suspect to affirmatively state that he is invoking his right to remain silent, and to ask for a lawyer.

What if I Did Not Receive the Miranda Rights Warning?

Miranda requires that police officers advise you of your constitutional rights once you are in custody. If a suspect is in custody and has not received the Miranda warnings, any statement or confession made will be presumed to be made involuntarily and cannot be used in the prosecution of the case.

It is important to note, however, that Miranda only applies after a suspect is in custody. This means that statements made before you have been arrested can be used against you. So the better course of action is simply not to speak to police officers and other law enforcement agents.

If You Are Facing Criminal Charges, Contact The Wyoming Criminal Law Group Today

If you or someone you care about is facing criminal charges, it’s important that you have an experienced Wyoming criminal defense lawyer on your side.

Contact Wyoming attorney Christina L. Williams and her team of criminal defense professionals at The Wyoming Criminal Law Group, P.C. Call us at 307-686-6556, email inquiry@wyocriminallaw.com, or complete our online form.

* Photo thanks to Tony Santiago, used with permission under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.

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