Miranda v. Arizona
In the face of criminal liabilities, a suspect or an accused person has every right to prove his innocence to the society. This is the thematic presentation popularly contained and presented in the Miranda Warning often stated by arresting officers on criminal suspects prior to taking them into custody (Leo and Thomas, 1998:35). The statement cannot elude us particularly when television and movies dramatically present the arrest of criminal suspects while clearly focusing on the Miranda Warning. In movies and even in actual arrest shows, prior to restraining the suspect, a police officer would dramatically read the suspect’s rights through the common Miranda Warning. Many would probably wonder in amazement over a ridiculous ceremony prior to an arrest especially after the authorities had gone through a chase in order to arrest an elusive felon. But in custodial situations where suspects are taken in police custody and where freedom may be restrained, a suspect needs to be informed of his constitutional right (Rogers and Shuman, 2005:126) and civil servants like an arresting officer has the duty to inform the suspect about this prior or during the process of making an arrest (Gold, 1995: 20) and applicable in all cases.
In the 1960’s during a period where citizens were highly concerned with their civil rights, a movement erected under the Great Society program of President Lyndon B. Johnson provided suspects and defendants with legal aid (Walker, 1993: 11). The civil rights movement had focused attention on race discrimination particularly with police personnel, their searches, seizures and custody interrogations (Walker, 1993:11). A relative disorder which erupted during the period allowed the re-examination of the American Justice System that drafted enforcement procedures which soon included the Miranda warning familiar to most citizens. The evolution of the Miranda Warning shall provide the background of this study while we attempt to answer if the provision of the suspect’s rights cited in the Miranda warning will provide a balance on the public’s right for security and safety.
The timely manner of Arturo Miranda’ s(a.k.a. Ernest Arthur Miranda) arrest provided a reformation on police interrogatory practices after an enormous furor ensued that catapulted the methods set forth in police behaviour popularly carried over today. Judges of the Supreme Court had been faced with several complaints upon police officers making arrests and the methods of interrogations used in order to gain a confession. Ernesto Arturo Miranda of Arizona who was arrested for rape after his victim identified him through a line-up (Levy, 1995:259) provided everyone a chance to reform the law in order to correspond to a society that wanted to act humane to every citizen.
Upon Miranda’s arrest and subsequent interrogation, Miranda confessed to other crimes such as robbery and attempted rape and was to later claimed that “I didn’t know whether I had a choice” (Gold, 1995:44). A written admission made by Miranda after the two-hour interrogation described the details of the crime and was offered as evidence by the prosecutors. Miranda was provided with a court appointed lawyer to take on his case because Miranda was penniless. Miranda under the prodding of his lawyer was advised to plead guilty based on his earlier admissions. At first Miranda had hesitated but by conveniently using a reason of insanity, Miranda soon agreed (Gold, 1995:44). A psychiatrist however attested to the fact that Miranda’s immaturity and lack of impulse control could not excuse him from trial, and so Miranda was put to trial by jury in Arizona (Gold, 1995:45).
Miranda’s lawyer soon pointed out in open court that Miranda hadn’t been provided with the right to an attorney present during his interrogation thus arguing the inadmissibility of Miranda’s admissions. The judge and the jury however failed to see the defendant counsel’s point after the judge told the jury that the circumstances, “will not render his (Miranda’s) confession involuntarily” further resulting to Miranda’s conviction sentence of 20-30 years (Gold, 1995:45). A appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the original decision which prompted Miranda’s new counsel to seek an appeal to the Supreme Court. At a time when Supreme Court judges had almost enough questions on illegally procured confessions, Miranda’s case provided ample opportunity for the judges to finalize a reform in the ailing justice system and therefore decided to rule on the issue.
Protecting the rights of every citizen is the duty of every police officer (Walker, 1993: 259). The court under chief Justice Earl Warren, a former prosecutor, cited the 5th Amendment and delivered that suspects should be informed that “no confession could be admissible under the Fifth Amendment self-incrimination clause and Sixth Amendment right to an attorney unless a suspect had been made aware of his rights and the suspect had then waived them” (Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436 ). The decision overturned Miranda’s earlier conviction while providing a backdrop for interrogation practices under certain rules that will not allow the prosecution to use if a violation of this rule happens.
Miranda’s case therefore allowed everybody to see that the suspect despite allegations hurled upon him cannot be stripped of his rights as a citizen. Warren had added that, “If the individual indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease and if he does want an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present” (Gold, 1995:70). In all cases, the defendant under Warren’s contention must have an opportunity to consult his counsel and to require his counsel’s presence during questioning. Without these rights, the suspect is deemed stripped of his rights as a citizen and the balance of security are tipped off against his favour. The police officers have the responsibility of providing safety and security not just over unerring citizens but to everyone. The police officer’s responsibility of providing a safety net for everyone cannot justify a violation in the face of an arrest against a person suspected of a crime or felony.
The decision awarding Miranda’s freedom and substantially reversing an earlier decision made by the Jury and the Supreme Court of Arizona provided in effect a chance for authorities to reform implementation of rules and policies governing interrogations and arrests. Undeniably coercive techniques were often employed in order to elicit admission and have been used by many authorities. Yet on the other side, many of the accused and arrested felons had somehow overreacted to this right and would often seek the solace of this provision while conveniently claiming how he was stripped off. Such issue however is not the point of this discussion and it is for the authorities to disprove such allegations. But in the face of this right and under the 5th amendment, authorities must never forget that in the face of an egalitarian society, the awareness of such rights is a basic constitutional provision that persons of authority must strive to provide without discrimination.
In effect, our Miranda Rights may prove beneficial to everyone under an exercise that seeks to provide a constitutional balance of rights made available even to suspects and defendants. In assuming that defendants are innocent until proven guilty, our judicial system assumes that everyone has the right to prove his innocence (Champion, 2004: 198). Anyone suspected of a crime can exercise his rights to demand fair treatment and an attorney who would act in his best interest. Likewise in the provision of safety and security for everyone, there is no limit to an officer’s duty. In the exercise of his duty to catch erring citizens, a police officer must realize that his interrogation practices must follow the protocols set forth under the constitution and sees to it that prior to an arrest or taking someone into custody, the Miranda Warning must be upheld and practiced at all times.
Champion, Dean John. 2004. The American Dictionary of Criminal Justice: Key Terms and Major Court Cases. Scarecrow Press.
Gold, Susan Dudley. 1995. Miranda V. Arizona (1966): Suspects’ Rights. Twenty-First Century.
Leo, Richard and Thomas, George. 1998. The Miranda Debate: Law, Justice, and Policing. UPNE.
Levy, Leonard Williams. 1995. Seasoned Judgments: The American Constitution, Rights, and History. Transaction Publishers.
Rogers, Richard and Shuman, Daniel W. 2005. Fundamentals of Forensic Practice: Mental Health and Criminal Law. Springer.
Walker, Samuel. 1993. Taming the System: The Control of Discretion in Criminal Justice, 1950-1990. Oxford University.
United States. Supreme Court. 1966. MIRANDA v. ARIZONA, 384 U.S. 436 384 U.S. 436.