The History Of Miranda Rights: How The Supreme Court Passed This In The 1960s

By | June 11, 2020

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Ernesto Miranda. (The Republic)

If you're a fan of TV crime dramas, you probably have the Miranda Rights memorized. Anytime a suspect is taken into custody, the arresting officer(s) must inform them that they have the right to remain silent, anything they say can and will be used against them, etc. However, you won't find this script in the Bill of Rights or the original Constitution. In fact, it wasn't until June 13, 1966 that the United States Supreme Court ruled on Miranda v. Arizona, the court case that established the Miranda Rights.

Ernesto Miranda

On March 2, 1963, a woman from Phoenix, Arizona reported to the police that she had been kidnapped, driven into the desert, raped, and released. She was given a lie detector test with inconclusive results, but she managed to provide police with a vehicle description and partial plate number. The information led police to Ernesto Miranda, a man with a prior conviction for voyeurism, who they subsequently took into custody and interrogated. A few hours later, they had a confession—for a while, at least.

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Miranda (right) in court when he finally had legal representation. (Bettmann/Getty)

Miranda's Rights

Based on that confession and a few shreds of circumstantial evidence, Ernesto Miranda was found guilty of the charges against him. The attorney that defended him never called him to testify during the trial, and the circumstances of the confession were not highlighted. As Miranda sat in the Arizona State Penitentiary, however, lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union were taking a closer look at his case, particularly how the confession was obtained. It came to light that not only had none of the officers who interrogated Miranda informed him of his rights, the prosecuting attorney at the trial actually made it a point to tell the jury that Miranda never once asked for a lawyer. Of course, he didn't have any particular contempt for lawyers as a group or anything—he simply didn't know he had a right to one.