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“You have the right…”

June 13, 2012

June 13 marks the 46th anniversary of the landmark decision, Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).  Joined by Justices Black, Douglas, Brennan and Fortas,  Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the opinion of the court.  The Miranda warning against self-incrimination and the right to counsel before questioning someone in custody is familiar to any fan of  television police procedurals, like “Law & Order.”

Miranda reinforced the Court’s decision in Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478 (1964), involving a suspect in custody who was denied the opportunity to consult with his attorney.  In Miranda, the Court stated that its purpose in taking it and companion cases was to give “concrete constitutional guidelines for law enforcement and courts to follow.”  Miranda, 384 U.S. at 442.  A warning would serve to make the person being interrogated aware of their constitutional right against self-incrimination.  It would also “insure that the individual knows he is free to exercise the privilege at that point in time.” 384 U.S. at 468.

The Court added that the right to counsel at the time of questioning would likely reduce the likelihood of police coercion, and if it should occur, that the attorney would be able to testify as to its occurrence.  To further assure this right, those who could not afford an attorney would have one appointed to represent them.  384 U.S. at 473.

The courts continue to refine Miranda and the warnings required when in custody; see for example, Bergthuis v. Thompkins, 130 S. Ct. 560, 176 L. Ed. 2d 1098 (2010).

To read more about Miranda and the right to counsel and against self-incrimination, see:

The Constable Has Blundered:  the Exclusionary Rule, Crime and Corruption, by Walter Signorelli.

Investigative Criminal Procedure:  A Contemporary Approach, by Sam Kamin and Ricardo S. Bascaus

The Supreme Court and Criminal Procedure:  the Warren Court Revolution, by Michal R. Belknap

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