Study Guide

Miranda v. Arizona Main Idea

By Supreme Court of the United States

  • Main Idea

    Hey, get this. The Constitution applies to everyone. Thanks to Miranda v. Arizona, a person's Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights—to be advised of their right not to incriminate themselves and right to have an attorney present during questioning—extends to suspects in custody for police interrogations. Unless suspects are read their rights, what they say during the interrogation can't be used by the prosecution. Even if they confess.

    Questions About Main Idea

    1. Do people who commit crimes deserve the protections written in the Constitution? What does Miranda v. Arizona have to say about that?
    2. What should happen if someone is accused of a crime and is forced to confess, through mental or physical intimidation? What does Miranda v. Arizona have to say about that?
    3. Does allowing someone the right to remain silent impede the justice process?
    4. Who are the chumps who still don't know they have a right to remain silent after umpteen years of Law & Order reruns?

    Chew on This

    Every American deserves to be reminded of their rights when they get in trouble.

    People who commit crimes don't deserve to be given protections in the Constitutions; they forfeit those protections when they decide to break the law.

  • Brief Summary

    The Set-Up

    Ernesto Miranda, arrested and charged with rape and kidnapping, is interrogated by the police and gives a confession without being allowed to watch reruns of syndicated crime dramas—er, we mean, without being reminded of his right to remain silent and his right to a lawyer. He's convicted and sentenced to prison.

    His lawyer tries unsuccessfully to get the decision reversed by the Supreme Court of Arizona. SCOTUS agrees to consider the case to clarify whether suspects in custody are protected by their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. Drumroll please…

    The Text

    The Miranda v. Arizona text is authored by Chief Justice Earl Warren (writing for the majority) and the dissenting justices. It begins with an overview of the case, including the crimes and controversy that the court is examining. The heart of the text is the Opinion, which is where the court gives its final decision, along with reasons for that decision. Earl Warren explains that it's unconstitutional to gain a confession from someone who has not been told their rights, because that confession may have been gained through police pressure (threats, violence, intimidation, pantsing), or because the defendant didn't know that he or she had those rights.

    Hey, wake up. Maybe put some dance music on the background.

    The Opinion finishes with the new rule, a.k.a. a precedent. Warren says that from now on, anyone questioned by the police must be informed about their right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning. Script writing changes forever.

    The end of the text includes dissents (translation: the thoughts of the justices who voted against the majority). Several justices believe that it's not the responsibility of the police to remind criminals of their rights, and that offering the Miranda Warning may actually lead to more criminals getting away with their crimes.

    TL;DR

    You must be told that you have the right to zip it and get a lawyer before you answer any questions in custody during a police Q&A.

      
  • Questions

    1. Miranda v. Arizona is well over half a century old. Have police interrogation tactics changed since then because of the ruling?
    2. Shouldn't detectives be allowed to put some pressure on criminals, since their job is to find out who's to blame? Why or why not?
    3. Should it be every American citizen's responsibility to know their basic rights, and not have to be reminded of them by the police?
    4. What's the correct balance between guarding against police abuse in a questioning situation, and letting someone get away with something because we failed to read them their rights?
    5. Are there non-verbal ways the police could coerce or force a confession that would not fall under the Miranda Warning? In other words, are there any loopholes that could be exploited by law enforcement?
    6. What should happen if someone is convicted of a crime but was never given the Miranda Warning?
    7. Should juveniles have Miranda rights the same as adults?
    8. What were the dissenters' main argument against the ruling?
    9. How does the ruling protect the police as well as the suspects?
    10. Why don't we just videotape every interrogation to make sure nothing illegal is going on?

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