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Where Does the ‘Miranda Warning’ Come From?

July 16, 2015 | Written by Dan Margolis

One of the most important decisions ever issued by the U.S. Supreme Court was Miranda v. Arizona, a 1966 case that enshrined a key piece of police procedure into law. We have all watched scenes in movies and TV shows where the police tell a suspect, “You have the right to remain silent…” while arresting him or her. Readers may not realize that it has been less than 50 years since every American has enjoyed their so-called “Miranda rights.”

The Miranda case had to do with the Fifth Amendment, specifically a suspect’s right not to make any self-incriminating statements if he or she does not want to. In its ruling, the Court held that people in police custody must be informed of that and other rights, or else they may not be aware if the police violate those rights.

As a result, police are required to disclose the following to anyone they take into custody:

  • 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

Of course, the latter two statements relate to the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, not the Fifth Amendment.

To enforce this procedural rule, courts are supposed to presume that any statement a suspect makes without first being given a Miranda warning was involuntary, and thus inadmissible in court. Similarly, any evidence seized as the result of the involuntary statement will also likely be barred from trial.

Enforcement of procedural rules matter, because these laws are one of the few restraints on police power available to the average person. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows how to spot a violation of his or her client’s rights, and how to defend those rights in court.

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