Miranda v. Arizona

The vast majority of Americans know (at least a portion of) the Miranda rights, or the rights you have read to you when you are being arrested by the police. Many of us have learned them over the years after watching popular crime shows on television, but the actual Miranda rights are as follows:

“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 an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be provided to you. Do you understand the rights as I have read them to you?”

But how did these rights, and these exact words, come to be?

Technically, accused criminals always had the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney as outlined in the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but it wasn’t until 1966 that the Miranda rights came to be. 

You see, back in 1963, a man named Ernesto Miranda was apprehended by the Phoenix Police Department on suspicion of kidnapping and rape of a young woman days earlier. Just two hours into the interrogation, the police obtained his confession to the rape and he was subsequently tried for rape and kidnapping. 

However, Miranda was never told that he had the right to remain silent, or the right to an attorney, and when his court-appointed lawyer made this argument in court, he paved the way for the Miranda warning to become necessary in every arrest. Miranda himself was found guilty in Phoenix criminal court, but the verdict was overturned when he appealed to the Supreme Court. 

Eventually, in 1967, Miranda was tried again, and found guilty after the prosecutor provided witness statements and other evidence. Miranda was paroled in 1972 after originally being sentenced to 20-30 years in prison. Once he was out of prison, he made his living by autographing the police-issued Miranda Warning cards until he was later murdered in a bar fight in 1976!

Miranda v. Arizona was a landmark case, not only for the state of Arizona, but also for the entire country. In 2020, if a police officer or other member of law enforcement failed to read someone their Miranda rights, the case would be thrown out immediately should it ever be brought to court, making this criminal case one of the most iconic to ever be heard in the U.S.