Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
In the landmark supreme court case Miranda v. Arizona (1966), the Court held that if police do not inform people they arrest about certain constitutional rights, including their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, then their confessions may not be used as evidence at trial. The Court referenced Mapp v. Ohio (1961) as the basis for excluding the confessions. The ruling was also based on the assertions that the Fifth Amendment privilege is “fundamental to our system of constitutional rule” and that to inform the accused of their rights is “expedient [and] simple.”
- Why did the Supreme Court overturn Miranda’s conviction?
- According to the Court’s majority opinion,”…the prosecution may not use statements…stemming from … interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination.” What are the effects of this ruling for accused persons? For society?
- Justice Harlan, who wrote the Court’s dissenting opinion in the case, said, “The social costs of crime are too great to call the new rules anything but a hazardous experimentation…. One is entitled to feel astonished that the Constitution can be read to produce this result.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
- The Court overturned Miranda’s conviction because the police had not informed him of his rights guaranteed by the Fifth and Sixth Amendment: the right not to incriminate himself, as well as the right to have legal counsel assist him.
- Students may say that the outcome for accused criminals is that the rights guaranteed by the Constitution are more likely to be protected by the government (the police). Defendants who know they that can keep silent and that they can ask for a lawyer will be more likely to do those things. Students may say that the effects to society include a more law-abiding police force and greater respect for the rights of all persons, including accused criminals. Other students may say that the consequences for society are that more criminals will go free, because suspects are unlikely to waive their right against self-incrimination, thus making it more difficult for the government to prosecute them
- Some students may agree with Justice Harlan that the cost to society of freeing criminals is too great. They may say that the Constitution says nothing about police reminding citizens of their rights. Others may disagree, saying that the Miranda Warnings simply force police to act properly and to protect citizens’ rights–the express purpose of government.