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Giacomo Balli
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Miranda Doctrine (Sep 2004)

Facts

On the 3rd of March 1963 and 18 year old girl had been kidnapped, driven into the desert, and raped. Ernesto Miranda was a poor Mexican immigrant living in Phoenix. Ten days later the crime, the police of Arizona went to his house, knocked, and asked him to follow them to the for some questions they had concerning the crime. The man did so and when he arrived he had to be in a lineup and there the 18 year old which had been raped identified him as the person who kidnapped, and raped her. Miranda was arrested and interrogated for two hours while in police custody. At the end he agreed to sign a declaration which explained all the details and facts and that it was him who committed the crime.



This might seem a closed case but the problem is that when the police officers took Miranda into custody they didn't inform him on his rights (no self-incrimination and a lawyer). In detail we are talking about the 5th and the 6th amendments which state no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself” and any person shall “have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense” (lawyer), respectively. Initially Miranda had been sentenced to 20 to 30 years of prison but his lawyer appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court arguing that the confession he made during the interrogation had to be excluded from the trial since the police officers did not inform him of his rights and that an attorney was not present. In any case the appeal had been denied. Later they appealed again but to the United States Supreme Court this time. The United States Supreme Court had made previous attempts to deal with these exact issues. In Brown v. Mississippi (1936), the Court had ruled that the 5th Amendment protected individuals from being forced to confess. In Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), the Court held that persons accused of felonies have a fundamental right to an attorney, even if they cannot afford one. In 1964, after Miranda's arrest, the Court ruled that when an accused person is denied the right to consult with his attorney, his 6th Amendment right to counsel is violated (Escobedo v. Illinois). In 1965, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear Miranda's case. At the same time, the Court agreed to hear three other similar cases, Vignera v. New York, Westover v. United States, and California v. Stewart, and the cases were combined. Since Miranda was listed first among the four cases considered by the Court, the decision came to be known by that name. The decision in Miranda v. Arizona was handed down in 1966.

The Arguments

Being this such a big issue, many wanted to express their own opinion. Attorneys for the National District Attorneys Association argued that the rights of suspects had to be balanced against the right of the public to be secure. The Court, they said, should not be allowed to interfere with the police officers' ability to do the job.

The American Civil Liberties Union saw it differently. They asserted that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights protect the rights of all. The police especially should not be allowed to violate people's rights. Lawyers were needed to let people know about their rights, since it seemed clear they weren't always sure what those rights are.

When Miranda's case had been overruled by the Arizona court, the judge had based his decision in part on the fact that Miranda had signed a typed statement saying his confession was of his own free will, with no threats. John J. Flynn, Miranda's attorney, countered that argument before the justices asserting that the police had not informed his client that he did not have to speak at all or that he had the right to consult an attorney. Flynn contended that perhaps a wealthy, educated man might have insisted on his rights, but Miranda, lacking those advantages may not have known he had these options. Without a lawyer, Flynn continued, a suspect might not understand the rights guaranteed him by the 5th Amendment. Though Flynn conceded that Miranda had not been compelled to confess “at gunpoint,” he argued that his client's confession might have come because he had not been informed ahead of time that he had the right to remain silent.

In presenting the case for the state of Arizona, Gary K. Nelson, the assistant attorney general argued that warnings were not necessary in every case—the Court had to look at the circumstances to determine if an injustice had been done. Age, experience, and background should be taken into consideration. Furthermore, Nelson told the justices, if all suspects had to have lawyers or had to say they didn't want a lawyer before confessing, “a serious problem in enforcement of our criminal law will occur.” Nelson continued his arguments: In some cases the interrogation might result in the suspect providing information that would prove he was not guilty. Finally, he pointed out, if a suspect refused to talk, perhaps the police would assume he had something to hide and thus more likely see him as the guilty party.

The Final Decision

Apparently the Court was unconvinced by the Nelson arguments. The opinion in the Miranda case was handed down on June 13, 1966. In a 5-4 decision the court overturned three of the four cases, and upheld a reversal favorable to the suspect in the other. The Court ruled that the 5th Amendment required the police to inform suspects in their custody that they had the right to remain silent, that whatever they said could be used against them, and that they had a right to an attorney. Furthermore, the court ruled, the police must give this warning before the questioning begins. If the suspect then wanted to waive these rights he had the right to do so. However, even then, if the suspect decided he wanted to stop talking or contact a lawyer, then the interrogation must stop until that took place. If these rules were not followed, prosecuting attorneys could not use the confession made in violation of this rule. Moreover, it would be up to the police, not the defendant, to show that confessions were voluntary and that the suspect had waived his right. The application of this decision does not mean that police can't question a suspect at the crime scene, and it has no bearing on confessions given without police involvement. There were strong dissenting opinions in the case. Justice John Harlan, his face flushed with emotion, declared: “It's obviously going to mean the disappearance of confessions as a legitimate tool of law enforcement.” Justice Bryon R. White put it even more strongly: “In some unknown number of cases the Court's rule will return a killer, a rapist, or other criminal to the streets . . .to repeat his crime whenever it pleases him. Indeed, the decision was controversial, with many law enforcement officers claiming that it was the police who were now being handcuffed. Nevertheless, in a 1968 case, Moran v. Burbine, the Court referred to Miranda as a decision that represented a “carefully crafted balance designed to fully protect both the defendant's and society's interests.”

The Miranda Warning

Since this decision, policemen carry with them a tiny card, which spells out what has come to be called “The Miranda Warning.” It covers four points: You have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law; you have the right to a lawyer before you are questioned; if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to act in your behalf. 23 Justice Arthur Goldberg, speaking in another case involving these rights had said, “No system of criminal justice can, or should, survive if it comes to depend for its continued effectiveness on the citizens' abdication through unawareness of their constitutional rights.” The Miranda Warning made that possibility much less likely.

Miranda and the Exclusionary Rule

In the United States, one of the ways that the judicial branch checks the executive branch is via the exclusionary rule. Under this policy, illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible in court. While this applies primarily to Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure, it also applies to the Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination. This means that if the police fail to inform a suspect of his right to remain silent, and the suspect confesses, then the confession can not be introduced as evidence in the suspect's trial.

There has been a great deal of controversy over this, so in recent years, the Courts have relaxed the standard a bit. For instance, they now apply what is known as the “good faith” exception. Under this standard if police believed, for instance, that a search warrant was legal, but later found out that it was technically flawed, the evidence obtained in the search would still be admissible.

In many democratic nations, including England, violations of police procedure are handled quite differently. There, if the police violate criminal procedure, they are reprimanded; they might be punished or sued. However, the illegally obtained evidence is still admissible in court.

Similar Cases after Miranda

Harris v. New York (1971)

Harris was arrested for selling heroin to an undercover detective. He had not been given his Miranda warnings when he said to the police officers that he had made the sales at the request of the undercover officer. At trial, the prosecution did not use the statement the defendant made during their case. However, when he took the stand, he denied making the sales, contradicting what he had previously told the police. The prosecutors then used his initial statement to impeach, or make less credible, his testimony.

Michigan v. Tucker (1974)

In this case, the accused was warned of his right against self-incrimination, but not of his right to a lawyer. In the defendant's statement, a person was identified as a potential witness. The defendant's lawyer argued that the witness could not testify, since the witness would be “derivative evidence” arising from the defendant's statement, which was not allowed in court because of the violation of Miranda.

New York v. Quarles (1984)

A woman told two police officers she had been raped at gun point. She gave them a description of the suspect and told them he had gone into a supermarket nearby. One of the officers apprehended Quarles in the store, searched him, and found that he was wearing an empty holster. He asked Quarles where his gun was and he told him. The officer arrested Quarles and read him his Miranda rights.

Oregon v. Elstad (1985)

Elstad was suspected of committing burglary. He was arrested in his home and made an incriminating statement before being read his Miranda warnings. He was then taken to the police station where the police read him his Miranda rights. He waived his Miranda rights and the police questioned him; during the questioning, he confessed to the crime and signed a written confession. Elstad's first statement that he was involved in the crime was suppressed at trial, but his second statement was used against him and he was convicted.

Illinois v. Perkins (1990)

In this case, police informants posed as prisoners in order to obtain evidence of Perkins' involvement in a murder. Perkins made statements to the one of the “prisoners” implicating himself. This information was subsequently used at trial and Perkins was convicted. There had been no Miranda warning, since the defendant did not know he was speaking to someone acting on behalf of the police.

Conclusion

The Miranda case specifically dealt with the admissibility of statements made during “custodial interrogation” under the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.  Our justice system presumes that statements made without adequate warning were compelled and, therefore, must be suppressed.

Under Miranda, prior to interrogation, a person in custody must be told of the right to remain silent and the likelihood that statements made by the person will be used against him or her in court.  Recognizing that the average citizen might not understand which statements are incriminating or how they might be used in court, the Supreme Court requires persons in custody to be told of their right to an attorney. The right to counsel is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. The Court saw an obvious connection between the two amendments—statements made without counsel tended to self-incriminate and the right to counsel was not particularly helpful once the incriminating statements had been made.

When the Miranda rules are not followed, statements are excluded for three reasons: (1) to avoid the risk that statements were compelled in violation of the Fifth Amendment; (2) to encourage officers to comply with the Miranda rules, thereby lessening the future likelihood of compelled self-incrimination; and (3) to discourage the kinds of unsavory police practices that tended to “compel” confessions from suspects.

The Constitution does not explicitly require such warnings or the exclusion of statements given in the absence of such warnings. However, a majority of the Court viewed custodial interrogations as inherently coercive and feared that the absence of a warning requirement and exclusionary rule (the rule that excludes the evidence from being used at trial under most circumstances) would render the Fifth Amendment meaningless. Textualists, those advocating a strictly text-based interpretation of the Constitution, criticize this methodology as judicial “creation” of rights.

In conclusion we may say that the Miranda v. Arizona case of 1966 was surely one which made history. This is due to the fact that it had severe repercussions on the cases that followed, and in many occasions it has been used as basis of trials; what we may call a leading case. However, since it deals with such important issues it is normal that it makes controversial feelings and doubts/questions arise. Could informing accused persons of their rights hurt in some way the ability of the police to fight crime? Does this help innocent citizens?

Published: Mon, 03 Dec 2012 15:02:03 +0000