Miranda Rights Essay Research Paper In 1966

Miranda Rights Essay, Research Paper

In 1966, the U. S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in Miranda v. Arizona. The Miranda decision was a departure from the established law in the area of police interrogation. Prior to Miranda, a confession would be suppressed only if a court determined it resulted from some actual coercion, threat, or promise. The Miranda decision was intended to protect suspects of their 5th Amendment right of no self-incrimination. The verdict of Miranda v. Arizona is an efficient way of informing criminal suspects of their rights established by the Constitution, allowing un-Constitutional

confessions to be nullinvoid in the court of law. However, it does not enforce it well enough. For example, a statement taken in violation of Miranda can be used for impeachment purposes and deciding whether evidence derived from a Miranda violation is admissible. Also, Miranda applies to undercover police interrogation and prior to routine booking questions, protecting all suspect in American custody to be aware of their rights. Next, it says that police may not continue to interrogate a suspect after he makes a request for a lawyer.

At approximately 8:30 p.m. on November 27, 1962, a young woman left the First National Bank of Arizona after attending night classes. A male suspect robbed the woman of $8 at knife-point after forcing his way into her car. Four months later, the same suspect abducted an 18-year-old girl at knife-point and, after tying her hands and feet, drove to ansecluded area of the desert and raped her. On March 13, 1963, police arrested 23-year-old Ernesto Arthur Miranda as a suspect in the two crimes. Miranda had a prior arrest record for armed robbery and a juvenile record for, among other things, attempted

rape, assault, and burglary. Both victims viewed corporeal lineups and identified Miranda as their attacker. The police questioned Miranda, and he confessed to both crimes. He signed a confession to the rape that included a typed paragraph explaining that the statement was made voluntarily without threats or promises of immunity and that he had full knowledge of his rights and understood that the statement could be used against him. Ultimately, the Supreme Court reversed Miranda’s conviction and ordered that the confession in the rape case be suppressed. The Court ruled that “an individual held for

interrogation must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and have the lawyer with him during inter-rogation…[that he has] the right to remain silent and that anything stated can be used in evidence against him…that if he is indigent a lawyer will be appointed to represent him” (US Suprime Court). The Court reasoned that all custodial police interrogations are inherently coercive and could never result in a voluntary statement in the absence of a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of the rights enumerated in the Miranda warnings.

Under Miranda, the Supreme Court established an irrebuttable resumption that a statement is involuntary if it is taken during custodial interrogation without a waiver of the so-called Miranda warnings. A statement taken in violation of Miranda would result in the suppression of the statement, even though the statement was otherwise voluntary and not the result of coercion of any kind. In fact, in the Miranda decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that Ernesto Miranda was not subjected to any coercion that would render his statement involuntary in traditional terms. The Miranda requirements apply only when a suspect is both in custody and subjected to interrogation. For purposes of Miranda, “custody” is defined as an arrest or significant deprivation of freedom equivalent to an arrest. “Interrogation,” under Miranda, is defined as words or actions likely to elicit an incriminating response from an average suspect (Hogrogian, 90). If the suspect asserts the

right to silence, an officer must honor the suspect’s assertion and stop the interrogation. However, the officer may reinitiate contact and obtain a valid waiver after a reasonable period of time. On the other hand, if a suspect asserts the right to an attorney, questioning must cease and may only be recommenced if the defendant reinitiates communication with the officer.

Subsequent US Supreme Court decisions have limited the Miranda exclusionary rule. Five years after Miranda, the Supreme Court decided Harris v. New York. With only two of the five justices in the original Miranda majority still on the Court, the Supreme Court held that a statement taken in violation of Miranda could be used to impeach the credibility of a defendant at trial.

The police in Harris failed to advise the defendant of his right to counsel prior to custodial inter-rogation, which was a violation of Miranda. The prosecution did not use the statement during the case in chief. However, when the defendant took the stand, he contradicted his postarrest statement. The Supreme Court approved of the prosecution using the post-arrest statement to impeach the defendant during cross-examination, because the Court was not going to allow the defendant to use the Miranda decision as a license to commit perjury. Interestingly, the Court observed that the defendant made “no claim that the statements made to the police were coerced or involuntary” (US Suprime

Court). This statement by the Supreme Court was a signal that the Court was prepared to abandon the position that statements made by a suspect during custodial interrogation are presumptively involuntary. That presumption was the reason given for requiring Miranda warnings in the first place.

In another case, Oregon v. Haas, the Supreme Court followed the precedent in Harris and ruled that a defendant’s statement may be used to impeach the defendant, even if that statement was taken after the defendant requested an attorney during the custodial, interrogation. The Haas Court distinguished the Miranda presumption of involuntariness from actual involuntariness and stated that if, “…in a given case, the officers conduct

amounts to abuse, that case, like those involving coercion or duress, may be taken care of when it arises measured by the traditional standards for evaluating voluntariness and trustworthiness” (Haas Court). A statement that is in fact involuntary is inadmissible for any purpose including impeachment.

In Doyle v. Ohio, two suspects elected to remain silent after they had been told by police during Miranda warnings that they had a right to remain silent. The Supreme Court ruled that it was a due process violation to use their silence to impeach them during their respective trials. The Court reasoned that the Miranda warnings carry the implicit promise that if suspects remain silent, that silence will not be used against them. The Supreme

Court thought it unfair to penalize the defendants by allowing their silence to be used to impeach them, after they had relied upon the assurances of the police that they had a right to remain silent. However, if the defendants in Doyle had not been told by police that they had a right to remain silent, there would have been no due process violation if their silence was subsequently used to impeach their credibility. Under those circumstances, their silence would not have been induced by the implicit promise in the Miranda warnings that

their silence would not be used against them (Bender, 79).

In Michigan v. Tucker, the Supreme Court held that a witness may testify at trial, even though the defendant identified that person as a witness in a statement taken in violation of Miranda. Prior to Tucker’s custodial interrogation, the police advised him of the Miranda warnings, except the right to appointed counsel. The Court determined that derivative evidence, such as the witness’ identity, may be suppressed, but only if the police obtained it by infringing on the defendant’s constitutional rights. The Court distinguished

between a violation of the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and a violation of the prophylactic rules in Miranda. The Court stated that the Fifth Amendment was drafted in order to guard against genuine compulsion, which involves an element of coercion. The police in Tucker did not coerce the defendant to make the statement and, therefore, did not violate his Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. The police did, however, violate the rules of the Miranda decision. The Tucker Court made clear that Miranda warnings are not, themselves, rights protected by the Constitution, but are merely measures formulated by the Court to ensure that the right against compelled self-incrimination is protected (Online).

In Oregon v. Elstad, the Supreme Court ruled that when a suspect makes a

voluntary statement without being advised of his Miranda warnings, the Fifth Amendment Self-Incrimination Clause does not require the suppression of a subsequent statement made by that suspect, provided that the police comply with Miranda when taking the second statement. In Elstad, the police arrested the defendant, Michael Elstad, for burglary. When one of the officers sat down with Elstad to explain that he thought Elstad was involved in the burglary, Elstad responded by saying, “Yes, I was there.” The police did not advise Elstad of his Miranda warnings until after he had been transported to the sheriff’s department, 1 hour later. He then waived his Miranda rights and confessed to the

burglary. The Court suppressed the first statement because police took it in violation of Miranda. Elstad claimed that because he had “let the cat out of the bag” during the first unwarned interrogation, the second statement also should be suppressed. He argued that the second statement was the tainted fruit of the poisonous tree, because his prior unwarned statement exerted a coercive impact on his later admissions and that the Miranda warnings did not purge that taint. Supreme Court precedent has established that a prior coerced statement may result in the suppression of a subsequent statement, if it is determined that the coercive influence of the first statement carried over to the second

statement. In Elstad, however, the Supreme Court ruled that “the failure of police to administer Miranda warnings does not mean that the statements received have actually been coerced…” (Online, 9)

The Court distinguished between voluntary unwarned admissions and statements that result from actual police coercion. This distinction highlighted the Supreme Court’s apparent abandonment of the Miranda doctrine that custodial interrogations are inherently coercive. The Court viewed Elstad’s first statement as having resulted from a noncoercive Miranda violation rather than a constitutional violation. The Elstad Court made it clear that where there is a noncoercive Miranda violation, the remedy is limited to the suppression of the unwarned statement. A voluntary statement taken in violation of Miranda does not carry with it any taint that would affect the admissibility of evidence derived from that statement (Online, 9).

The Supreme Court has practically abandoned the underlying principle of the Miranda decision, that custodial police interrogation is inherently coercive, and has carved out many exceptions to the Miranda exclusionary rule. Consequently, a violation of the Miranda ruling does not necessarily mean that the resulting statement will be inadmissible. The Supreme Court has made it clear that the Miranda warnings are not constitutionally required but are only prophylactic rules designed to protect a suspect’s right against compelled self-incrimination. Voluntariness remains the constitutional standard that must

be met when obtaining a statement from a suspect. Nonetheless, law enforcement

agencies should consult with legal counsel to ensure that investigative practices conform to the requirements set forth by the Supreme Court in Miranda and other precedent.


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