Here’s why the police say “you have the right to remain silent” when arresting you.

Hey there! You’re under arrest for wanting to read this article. 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 an attorney, one will be appointed for you. These are your “Miranda Rights.” If you’ve ever been really arrested or seen a cop show, then you’re familiar with it. So why do the police say all that before busting you? Let’s find out.

You’re Under Arrest

In the United States, the Miranda warning is a type of notification customarily given by the police to criminal suspects upon their arrest advising them of their silence; i.e. their right to refuse to answer questions or provide information to law enforcement officials. This is also known as your Miranda rights. The purpose is to preserve the suspect from self-incrimination during the arrest and in later court trials.

The statements used in the Miranda warning were derived from the landmark 1966 US Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966). These statements vary depending on the jurisdiction of the arrest, but the warning is deemed valid when the suspect is thoroughly made known of his/her rights upon their arrest not to disclose any information such that any waiver of those rights by the suspect is known, voluntary, and intelligent.

Image: BBC News | Illustration of a police arrest

Upon your arrest, the law demands that you remain silent during your apprehension; and thus any word(s) you say (even your actions), can and will be used against you in a court of law. However, you have the right to speak to an attorney for advice before answering any questions. Even, an attorney would be provided for you before any further questioning. If you decide to answer questions without an attorney present, you have the right to stop answering at any time.

Whence Cometh Thine Rights?

On March 13, 1963, a 22-year-old man named Ernesto Arturo Miranda was apprehended by Phoenix police officers Carroll Cooley and Wilfred Young for the kidnapping and rape of Lois Ann Jameson, an 18-year-old woman. Miranda’s arrest was made when the victim gave a description of Miranda to her brother who reported him to the officials. The police took him in custody, and he then voluntarily participated in a lineup check.

After the lineup, the police affirmed that Miranda (being the culprit) was positively identified. The police later got a confession out of Miranda in a two-hour long interrogation, without an attorney present and without knowing his rights of silence. After the interrogation, he was taken to the victim for positive voice identification. When asked by the police about the victim’s presence, he confessed that “That’s the girl.” The victim stated that the sound of Miranda’s voice matched that of the culprit.

Image: Phoenix Police Dept. | Mugshot of Ernesto Miranda

Miranda then wrote his confessions down; with each sheet captioned as follows:

“…this statement has been made voluntarily and of my own free will, with no threats, coercion or promises of immunity and with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make can and will be used against me.”

Despite the statement on each of the sheets Miranda was confessing, “with full knowledge of my legal rights,” he was not informed of his right to have an attorney present or of his right to remain silent.

Miranda was trialed in the summer of 1963 before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Yale McFate. His attorney present was Alvin Moore who objected to entering the confession by Miranda as evidence during the trial but was overruled. He was later found guilty and convicted of rape and kidnapping, and sentenced to 20 to 30 years on both charges. His attorney appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, but his conviction was still upheld.

A pauper was later submitted for a writ of certiorari — the request for review of his case to the US Supreme Court in June 1965. Later on, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Robert J. Corcoran, together with some civil rights activists had to represent Miranda after Moore had health issues. Together, they wrote a 2,500-word petition for certiorari that argued that Miranda’s Fifth Amendment rights had been violated and sent it to the US Supreme Court.

Do You Know Your Rights?

The manuscript of written by Chief Justice Earl Warren regarding the Miranda v. Arizona decision in 1966.

In the case Miranda v. Arizona, the US Supreme Court held that the admission of an elicited incriminating statement by a suspect not informed of these rights violates the Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel; through the incorporation of these rights into state law. What this means is that, if law enforcement officials refuse to read you the Miranda warning while in their custody, they may interrogate you and act upon the knowledge gained, but may not use your statements as evidence against you in a criminal trial.

The Miranda warning is part of a preventive criminal procedure rule that law enforcement is required to administer to protect you if you’re in custody, and subject to direct questioning or its functional equivalent from a violation of your Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination.

Oh! lest we forget, if you’ve read the entire article to the end, we’d like to drop the charges for wanting to read earlier. You now know your rights.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sun, Jul 21, 2019.

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