Police Required to Inform Arrested Persons of Their Rights Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miranda v. Arizona that an arrested person must be informed—through what came to be called Miranda warnings—of his or her right to remain silent and to counsel before police interrogation may begin.

Summary of Event

Miranda v. Arizona (1966) was one of a series of landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases of the mid-1960’s establishing new guarantees of procedural fairness for defendants in criminal cases. The Court’s decision in Miranda sprang from two different lines of precedents under the Fourteenth Amendment Fourteenth Amendment Constitution, U.S.;Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Miranda v. Arizona (1966) Supreme Court, U.S.;rights of the accused Civil liberties;United States Fifth Amendment Constitution, U.S.;Fifth Amendment Sixth Amendment Constitution, U.S.;Sixth Amendment [kw]Police Required to Inform Arrested Persons of Their Rights (June 13, 1966) [kw]Arrested Persons of Their Rights, Police Required to Inform (June 13, 1966) [kw]Rights, Police Required to Inform Arrested Persons of Their (June 13, 1966) Miranda v. Arizona (1966) Supreme Court, U.S.;rights of the accused Civil liberties;United States Fifth Amendment Constitution, U.S.;Fifth Amendment Sixth Amendment Constitution, U.S.;Sixth Amendment [g]North America;June 13, 1966: Police Required to Inform Arrested Persons of Their Rights[08920] [g]United States;June 13, 1966: Police Required to Inform Arrested Persons of Their Rights[08920] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;June 13, 1966: Police Required to Inform Arrested Persons of Their Rights[08920] [c]Civil rights and liberties;June 13, 1966: Police Required to Inform Arrested Persons of Their Rights[08920] [c]Crime and scandal;June 13, 1966: Police Required to Inform Arrested Persons of Their Rights[08920] Warren, Earl Harlan, John M., II White, Byron Clark, Tom C. Miranda, Ernesto

One of these lines was the right-to-counsel cases: Powell v. Alabama (1932) Powell v. Alabama (1932) , in which the Court held that indigent defendants had to be afforded counsel in capital cases; Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) , which extended the right to counsel for indigent defendants in all felony cases; and Escobedo v. Illinois (1964) Escobedo v. Illinois (1964) , in which the Court held that a confession obtained from a defendant who had asked for and been denied permission to speak to an attorney was inadmissible. By 1964, the right to counsel specified in the Sixth Amendment had expanded to include mandatory representation for indigents at trial in all felonies and also gave potential defendants the right to representation during questioning while in custody if they requested it.

The second line of cases culminated with Malloy v. Hogan (1964) Malloy v. Hogan (1964) , in which the Court had held that the privilege against self-incrimination applied to defendants in state courts. Moreover, prior to the Miranda case, a long series of Court decisions had established that neither physical coercion nor certain forms of psychological coercion could be used by police to obtain confessions from accused persons. Thus, on the eve of Miranda, constitutional rules barred the admission of confessions that had been coerced through either physical or psychological pressures or that had been obtained from an in-custody defendant who had requested the attendance of an attorney. By then, it was also clear that the entire body of the Fifth Amendment’s self-incrimination clause was to be applied to the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Like the other cases mentioned, Miranda rests on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which requires that criminal procedure in state courts be fundamentally fair.

Ernesto Miranda’s case involved a confession to rape and kidnapping that was elicited from him in a police interrogation room after his arrest. In addition to his oral admissions to the investigating officers, Miranda wrote out by hand a short statement, which he signed. The questioning by two Phoenix detectives involved neither physical nor psychological coercion as these had been defined in the earlier cases. The transcript of Miranda’s interview showed that he answered the officers’ questions freely, and that after an initial denial, he readily admitted abducting the victim and raping her. The entire interrogation and the preparation of Miranda’s written statement took less than two hours. At trial, Miranda’s oral admissions and his written statement were admitted into evidence over his objection; the victim testified against him as well. The jury found Miranda guilty of rape in the first degree and kidnapping, and he was sentenced to prison for a term of twenty to thirty years.

Miranda appealed to the Supreme Court of Arizona. After losing in that court, he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided to hear the case in 1965. Miranda and three companion cases were argued between February 28 and March 2, 1966. On June 13, the Court decided in Miranda’s favor by a 5-4 vote.

Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote for the majority, which consisted additionally of Justices Hugo L. Black Black, Hugo L. , William O. Douglas Douglas, William O. , William J. Brennan Brennan, William J., Jr. , Jr., and Abe Fortas Fortas, Abe . Warren’s opinion focused on the coercive elements present in any custodial interrogation. He argued that an accused person is isolated from friends, family, and his or her attorney and is often fearful of the police. Police officers, as contemporary textbooks on interrogation showed, are schooled in a variety of tricks and techniques that are designed to overbear the will of an arrested person and induce confession. These techniques, according to Warren’s opinion, skirt the edge of improper physical or psychological coercion and demonstrate that custodial interrogation is inherently coercive. Consequently, an accused person does not have a free opportunity to use the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself or herself or the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Accordingly, the Court held that before any custodial interrogation can take place, an arrested person must be given a fourfold warning—what has become known as the Miranda warning.

Justice John M. Harlan II’s dissenting opinion in this case argued that the Court was searching for a kind of “utopian” voluntariness. The dissenters believed that Miranda’s statement had been voluntarily given. No physical brutality or discomfort had been visited upon him, nor did the investigating officers use any special psychological tricks or deceptions. The record showed that Miranda freely gave a statement about the crimes of which he was accused. By the standards of 1963, the Phoenix police had acted properly. Harlan argued that the admissibility of Miranda’s confession was supported by precedent; moreover, in Miranda’s brief interrogation, there was “a legitimate purpose, no perceptible unfairness, and certainly little risk of injustice.” Justices Byron White and Potter Stewart Stewart, Potter adhered to Harlan’s opinion; Justice Tom C. Clark submitted a separate dissenting opinion.

The immediate result of Miranda was to reverse Miranda’s conviction for kidnapping and rape. The Arizona authorities persevered in the prosecution, and in 1969, at his second trial, Miranda was again convicted. Although the confession was not introduced against him this time, the victim’s testimony alone was enough to persuade the jury of his guilt. In consequence of this conviction he served a prison term from which he was paroled in 1972.

Miranda was killed in a barroom fight in 1976. Ironically, the man who stabbed him to death was given the Miranda warning when arrested.


The larger consequence of this controversial case was to require police officers all over the United States to provide themselves with “Miranda cards,” which embodied the warning required by the Supreme Court. Once a person has been detained, no questioning may take place unless the detainee has been given the warning and has waived the rights to silence and to consult counsel before responding to questions. If a detainee does request the assistance of an attorney, interrogation must stop until he or she has had the opportunity to consult with a lawyer.

Treatment of arrested persons changed significantly after Miranda v. Arizona. Because the Court’s decision placed on the state the burden of demonstrating knowing and voluntary waiver of the right to silence, police must persuade a detainee to agree if they wish to elicit a statement. The atmosphere in which an arrested person finds himself or herself in the crucial moments after arrest has changed substantially as a result of the Court’s decision.

There has been much discussion of the impact of this rule on American law enforcement. In most criminal cases, the detainee’s words constitute a significant part of the potential case against him or her. Police and prosecutors feared that the Court’s holding in Miranda would cripple their efforts; they argued that the new rule would make it impossible for investigators to get the kinds of inculpatory statements necessary to obtain criminal convictions. Once a detainee had consulted counsel, they believed, no further statements of any kind would be forthcoming, since any competent lawyer would immediately urge silence on the part of the client.

Despite these fears, which were shared by large portions of the public, Miranda does not seem to have negatively affected the work of the police and criminal courts. There have been a number of empirical studies of the behavior of arrested persons. Most criminal defendants do give statements—often incriminating statements—even after receiving the Miranda warning. Moreover, there have been as many successful prosecutions in relation to the number of arrests after the Miranda case as before.

Miranda also accomplished something else very important to the protection of the rights of arrested persons. There are signs that since Miranda the incidence of brutal or abusive police practices has diminished. Most observers of law enforcement practices in the United States believe police brutality is much less common than before this case. One strong indication is the rarity of claims of coerced confession in trials where the “coercion” involves police practices more abusive than violations of the Miranda rule itself. In the largest sense this is the real significance of Miranda: By forcing the police to attend to a rigid technical requirement that respects the defendant’s rights, the opportunity for abusive behavior is lessened.

Moreover, the increased professionalism of police that has resulted from Miranda and the other cases of the 1960’s has benefited both police and prosecutors in preparing good cases. In this light, Miranda represents an important step toward actualizing the rights of accused persons regardless of whether it achieves Chief Justice Warren’s stated aim, which was “to assure that the individual’s right to choose between silence and speech remains unfettered throughout the interrogation process.” Miranda v. Arizona (1966) Supreme Court, U.S.;rights of the accused Civil liberties;United States Fifth Amendment Constitution, U.S.;Fifth Amendment Sixth Amendment Constitution, U.S.;Sixth Amendment

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Baker, Liva. Miranda: Crime, Law, and Politics. New York: Atheneum, 1983. Excellent essays about the Miranda case, blending the legal and political issues raised.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hook, Sidney. Common Sense and the Fifth Amendment. New York: Criterion Books, 1959. Argument against the privilege against self-incrimination. Hook argues that one can correctly infer guilt from a defendant’s silence most of the time. Written in the context of the red scare of the 1950’s.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Israel, Jerold H., and Wayne R. LaFave. Criminal Procedure: Constitutional Limitations in a Nutshell. 7th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: Thomson/West, 2006. Good discussion of the rules for police interrogation and a summary of empirical evidence regarding the efficacy of the Miranda rule in giving potential defendants a free choice whether or not to speak.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jacobs, Robert. “Miranda: The Right to Silence.” Trial 11 (March/April, 1975): 69-76. An analysis and critique of the logic underlying the Court’s decision in Miranda as well as a discussion of the psychology of confession.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kamisar, Yale. Police Interrogation and Confessions: Essays in Law and Policy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1980. Kamisar presents this series of essays that emphasize the actualities of police questioning.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Levy, Leonard W. Origins of the Fifth Amendment: The Right Against Self-Incrimination. 1968. New paperback ed. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1999. Discussion of the historical purposes and original meaning of the Fifth Amendment.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lewis, Anthony. Gideon’s Trumpet. 1964. Birmingham, Ala.: Legal Classics Library, 1991. A study of the case of Clarence Earl Gideon, whose handwritten appeal to the Supreme Court resulted in the decision entitling all indigent defendants to assigned counsel. This book is particularly strong on Supreme Court procedure and on the issues raised by Gideon’s appeal.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Medalie, Richard, Leonard Zeitz, and Paul Alexander. “Custodial Interrogation in Our Nation’s Capital: The Attempt to Implement Miranda.” Michigan Law Review 66 (1968): 1347. Empirical study of interrogations in Washington, D.C., subsequent to the Court’s decision in Miranda.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mendelson, Wallace. The American Constitution and Civil Liberties. Homewood, Ill.: Dorsey Press, 1981. This text has a strong chapter on constitutional theory and practice as applied to criminal procedure.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Taylor, John B. The Right to Counsel and Privilege Against Self-Incrimination: Rights and Liberties Under the Law. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Examination of Gideon in the context of both constitutional history and common-law history. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">U.S. Supreme Court. “Miranda v. Arizona.” United States Reports 384 (1966): 436. Any study of this landmark case begins with the arguments made by the justices of the United States. Chief Justice Warren’s opinion for the majority and Harlan’s dissent are both cogent and powerful.

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Categories: History