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U.S. Supreme Court
June 13, 1966
384 U.S. 436

(The most important law enforcement case ever

handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Bar none.
Period. No other decision ever affected law
enforcement procedures and policies as much as
this famous 5-4 opinion. The opinion is more than
100 pages in length. The heart of the decision is,
"... we hold that when an individual is taken into
custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom by the
authorities in any significant way and is subjected
to questioning ... He must be warned prior to any
questioning that he has the right to remain silent,
that anything he says can be used against him in a
court of law, that he has the right to the presence of
an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney
one will be appointed for him prior to any
questioning if he so desires."

William Blackstone, one of the fathers of Anglo-American criminal law, in

England, in 1769, said of confessions, "They are the weakest and most
suspicious of all testimony; ever liable to be obtained by artifice, promise of favor,
or menace; seldom remembered accurately, or reported with due precision; and
incapable in their nature of being disproved by other evidence."
Blackstone must have been an influence on the majority of 5 justices in this
case, i.e., Chief Justice Warren and Justices Douglas, Brennan, Black and
Fortas. But, apparently not so much of an influence on the 4-justice minority, i.e.,
Justices White, Stewart, Harlan and Clark.
Ernesto Miranda was 23 years of age. He had an 8th grade education,
"pronounced sexual fantasies" and a juvenile arrest record which included assault
and burglary, and attempted rape at age 15. He had felony convictions in
California and Tennessee and had been court-martialed twice in the army and
given an undesirable discharge.
More recently, a young woman had left a downtown Phoenix bank following
a night class. A suspect forced his way into her car at knife-point and robbed her.
4 months later the same suspect kidnapped and raped an 18-year old Phoenix
girl at knife-point.
Ernesto Miranda was arrested at his home as a suspect in both cases.
Both victims identified him in lineups at the Phoenix Police Department and he
was taken by 2 detectives to "Interrogation Room No. 2" of the detective bureau
at about 11:30 a.m.
After 2 hours, the detectives emerged from the interview room with a
confession written and signed by Miranda, obtained during the brief, daylight
The first paragraph of the confession read, "I, Ernest A. Miranda, do hereby
swear that I make this statement voluntarily and of my own free will, with no
threats, coercion, or promises ... and with full knowledge of my legal rights,
understanding any statement I make may be used against me."
(Now trust me folks. This was 1963 and those were pretty good warnings
for that day. Remember, this was before Miranda v. Arizona for gosh sakes. I
know. I was an FBI agent in Florida then.)
At any rate, Miranda was charged with rape and kidnap. The signed
confession was admitted into evidence and the 2 detectives also testified about
the oral confession which preceded the one in writing. He was convicted and
sentenced to 20 to 30 years in prison.
The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, but, in a decision that
still reverberates to this day, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Miranda's

conviction and ordered the confession suppressed because, "Miranda was not in
any way apprised of his right to consult with an attorney and to have one present
during the interrogation." Even though Miranda admitted he never requested
counsel and was not subjected to any form of physical mistreatment, threats,
trickery, promises or coercion.
The only wrongdoing by police was that Miranda was not told he had a 5th
Amendment right to have an attorney present during the interview.
"Our holding ... is this: the prosecution may not use statements ...
stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the
use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-
incrimination. By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law
enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise
deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way ... Prior to any
questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that
any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he
has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed. The
defendant may waive ... these rights, provided the waiver is made voluntarily,
knowingly and intelligently."
Furthermore, "If the individual indicates in any manner, at any time prior to
or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must
cease ... If the individual states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must
cease until an attorney is present."
And, "... any evidence that the accused was threatened, tricked, or cajoled
into a waiver will, of course, show that the defendant did not voluntarily waive his
(Many so-called interrogation experts today are clearly not aware of how
many times the word "trickery" or "trick" appeared in this famous opinion. "The
interrogators sometimes are instructed to induce a confession out of trickery"

And, "The police then persuade, trick or cajole him out of exercising his
constitutional rights." And, "... to guard against intimidation or trickery." To cite
just a few of the admonitions relating to trickery. Trickery clearly offended the
Miranda court.)
In law enforcement, Miranda v. Arizona is not merely a landmark case. It is
the landmark case. The Miranda warning of rights is the best known law
enforcement rule in society. School children can recite the warnings. Everyone
knows them. Everyone, of course, except Detective Andy Sipowicz of NYPD
A poll of American Bar Association members in 1976, on the 10-year
anniversary of Miranda, ranked the decision fourth in importance among all legal
history milestones, but first in criminal law.

(Bottom line? The Miranda formula is quite simple.

Custody + interrogation = Miranda warnings and
waiver. Without either custody or interrogation
present Miranda does not apply. By the way, Ernest
Miranda was stabbed to death in a Phoenix bar a
few years ago. He had on his person Miranda cards
which it was his custom to autograph and sell.)