This article is written by Ms. Sushree Surekha Choudhury from the KIIT School of Law, Bhubaneswar. The article talks about the Miranda rights in the United States, which arose as a precedent and subsequently became an integral part of all criminal proceedings in the United States.
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Are you a US resident? Do you know your rights in the States? If yes, you are amazing. If not, now you will. Knowing your rights is not confined to the rights enshrined in the US Constitution and other basic rights as a citizen. It also includes the principles of justice and procedural fairness. It includes the rights of a person when detained by police or any law enforcement officer, which results in curtailing the individual’s freedom in any manner. In other words, the Miranda rights of a person. Arising from a landmark 1966 judgment, the Miranda rights uphold and reaffirm the Fifth Amendment and Sixth Amendment rights of the US Bill of Rights that aims to protect people accused of criminal charges from making self-incriminating statements by reason of not knowing their rights, and also ensures that the due process of law is followed at every stage of the proceeding. Reading their Miranda rights to people in custody has been recognized as a constitutional right. The Miranda rights are essentially focused on providing a just and fair process to be followed, one in which an accused is well informed of their rights before answering questions put forth at him. The famous Miranda rights in the United States are applicable to all US citizens, residents, men and women, juveniles and adults, alike, without any discrimination. These rights constitute certain essential rights that an individual possesses in order to defend their case without prejudice. The US government and the states make no discrimination in ensuring the Miranda rights in the states.
The US Bill of Rights is a cluster of ten amendments that have been brought to the US Constitution to guarantee some specific rights to US citizens and residents. The Bill of Rights guarantees certain rights that are essential to ensuring individual rights are protected in the US. These rights include protection from the federal as well as state governments’ intervention in their exercise. These rights aim to provide substantive equity and procedural fairness in all proceedings in the US courts. They ensure a speedy justice delivery system in the US. They also make provisions for a public trial system to ensure fairness and justice. The US Bill of Rights amendment that ensures speedy and public trials is the Sixth Amendment right, of which the Miranda rights also form a part. Apart from this, Miranda rights are in compliance with the Fifth Amendment rights of the US Bill of Rights. Miranda rights aim to uphold these rights. The Fifth Amendment rights are an essential part of the US Bill of Rights and are famously the most invoked rights in the US. It guarantees a due process is followed to ensure procedural fairness. It protects individuals in custody from making self-incriminating statements by giving them the option and the right to remain silent. It prescribes a grand jury indictment in cases of grievous offenses that involve capital punishment or other serious punishments. The Fifth Amendment also protects against double jeopardy, as it states that no person shall be punished twice for the same offense.
In this article, we shall learn all about these Miranda rights and the landmark judgment that led to their existence.
History of Miranda rights in the US
In most countries, the Supreme Court is the apex body to determine cases when they appear as appeals. The decision of the Supreme Court is considered final in appeals for determining the legal validity and correctness of the decided case by the lower courts. The United States is no exception. The US Supreme Court is the ultimate court of appeals in the United States and it regularly hears cases dealing with varied legal issues and the merits of those cases. The US Supreme Court derives its power and authority to deal with these appeals from the US Constitution. Through this power, it keeps a check on the actions of government officials, state governments, law enforcement departments, and other departments in the US. The US Supreme Court has been trusted with the authority to ensure that these departments and their officers abide by and comply with the provisions of the US Constitution and the rights enshrined therein.
One such historic judgment that put a check on and controlled the indeterminate use of powers and made provisions to ensure justice for the accused during interrogations and stages of the trial was pronounced in the case of Miranda v. Arizona (1966). Arizona is a small state in the southwest region of the United States. Miranda refers to the defendant in the instant case, Ernesto Miranda. Miranda later came to be known for the rights and warnings that were decided in this case. Today, these Miranda rights and warnings are used to refer to the rights and warnings that are read to a person who has been detained in police custody for custodial interrogation. The purpose behind these warnings is to remind people who are to be interrogated about the rights they have during the interrogation. For instance, they have the right not to answer such questions that are of a nature that can be used against them as evidence.
It is mandatory to read the Miranda rights of an accused before the beginning of formal questioning in a custodial interrogation. A failure to read these rights to the person in custody will lead to the rejection and disregard of all the statements made, questions answered, and confessions made by them during these interrogations. All the shreds of evidence obtained from such an interrogation, which was conducted in the accused person’s lack of knowledge of their rights, shall not be admissible in a court of law and thus will be disregarded. All these pieces of evidence and confessions shall be deemed to have been obtained involuntarily, and without the knowledge of the person making them, their confessions and evidence will be used against them. This evidence will be considered to have been collected without the accused person’s intention to provide it.
Miranda v. Arizona is considered a landmark judgment in the history of the US because of the impact it had on the laws, regulations, and legislation and their interpretations in the US. Landmark judgments are the ones that set historic precedents that are complied with in the years to follow. The Miranda precedent gave rise to Miranda rights and gave motion to the Fifth Amendment rights of the US Bill of Rights. It prescribed a proper procedure of arrest and interrogation that, when not followed, is considered unconstitutional and involuntary in the absence of complete knowledge. Decisions made by these people, who were deprived of information about their rights during interrogations, are not considered to be well-informed decisions and thus, are liable to be disregarded and thrown away.
We will learn more about the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the US Bill of Rights, and the landmark judgment of Miranda v. Arizona in detail in this article to understand Miranda rights better.
US Bill of Rights : the Fifth Amendment
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
The origin of Miranda rights can be traced to elements of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the United States Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment of the US Bill of Rights protects US citizens against self-incrimination. The Fifth Amendment provides protection to people who have been detained under criminal accusations. The Fifth Amendment provides procedural protection and justice to the accused/person in custody. It ensures that an appropriate procedure of law is followed during the stages of a criminal trial. The Fifth Amendment right can be exercised to protect the life, liberty, and property of individuals.
The Fifth Amendment states that a person who is accused of a capital or infamous crime shall only be tried before a grand jury. This requirement of grand jury indictment makes an exception for military and naval forces of the state in times of their service, war, or public danger. Further, the Fifth Amendment states that a person shall not be punished for the same offense twice. The Fifth Amendment further protects against self-incrimination, meaning a person cannot be compelled to give statements or evidence that are of a nature that would incriminate them. A person cannot be deprived of their life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Finally, the Fifth Amendment states that the state shall not take away private properties of individuals without providing a just and fair compensation for such taking.
Grand jury indictment
The Fifth Amendment is divided into five major parts, or clauses. These provisions guide the Fifth Amendment right guaranteed to US citizens. The first part of this Amendment is the clause of “grand jury indictment.” The prosecution first makes a formal presentation of the case to a grand jury. The prosecution presents evidence to the grand jury. Thereupon, the grand jury determines these pieces of evidence are sufficient. The grand jury, after hearing the prosecution, decides whether a case is made that is to be heard in formal trials or not. The grand jury allows the trial of the case to begin when they are satisfied that it is needed. This is known as an indictment by the grand jury. A grand jury indictment is a right guaranteed to an accused who is alleged to be committing a crime that involves capital punishment or any other form of serious crime. When an accused person is charged with serious crimes, the grand jury indictment guarantees an impartial procedure to protect their rights.
Double jeopardy is a part of the Fifth Amendment rights of the US Bill of Rights, which protects an accused from being punished for the same offense twice. It is a right under the Fifth Amendment that no person shall be punished for the same charges twice. However, two different offenses committed by the same person are liable to be punished separately. Hence, the right against double jeopardy is not absolute. It is subject to reasonable exceptions. For instance, when a case is wrongfully decided or there has been a gross violation of the laws and principles of justice, the case can be re-examined without a bar to double jeopardy. The principle of double jeopardy has been part of the US justice delivery system for years to protect the accused from the unfair punishment of getting punished twice for the same offense.
Right against self-incrimination
One essential part of the Fifth Amendment right is the right against self-incrimination. This is the part that most closely reflects the Miranda rights as well. The Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination protects a person from making statements or presenting evidence that is of a nature that will incriminate himself. A person cannot be compelled to incriminate himself at any stage of criminal proceedings or trials. This right against self-incrimination is in conformity with the criminal law principle that a person is presumed innocent until he is proven guilty. The Miranda rights arose as part of this right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. It was prescribed in the case of Miranda v. Arizona (1966), where a person detained by police and served with a custodial investigation was not informed of their basic rights as a prisoner/person under custody. The Court prescribed Miranda warnings, which shall not be infringed by the state and its duty-bearers. Hence, arose the Miranda rights and Miranda warnings.
We shall learn more about this in later parts of this article.
Due process of law
This part of the Fifth Amendment, known as the “Due Process of Law” clause, governs the US justice system and aims to provide substantial as well as procedural fairness in criminal proceedings. It preserves the fundamental rights of every citizen alike, prisoner or otherwise. It states that due process of law must be followed while proceeding with a criminal trial. It states that Miranda rights must be guaranteed to the accused undergoing criminal proceedings. It further states that the rights enshrined in the US Constitution must be abided by while deciding criminal cases. Prescribed standards of law and justice must be maintained at every stage of criminal trials and proceedings. It states that no person shall be deprived of their life, liberty, and property without following the due process of law.
Just and fair compensation
Though this part has little relevance to the Miranda rights, the principle of just and fair compensation forms a pertinent part of the Fifth Amendment rights. It follows a principle of justice and fairness when the state intends to acquire the private properties of individuals. The state can exercise its power of eminent domain and take properties from private owners for necessary public use. However, in doing so, the state must compensate the property owner for the property that it takes over. Further, this compensation must be fair. Compensation is fair when it meets the actual value of the property in question. Thus, the state must compensate the property owner with a value equivalent to the fair market value of the property.
US Bill of Rights : the Sixth Amendment
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”
The Sixth Amendment of the US Bill of Rights provides a right to be represented by counsel. It further focuses on the implementation of the due process of law that ensures fairness and justice. It also ensures transparency is maintained in criminal proceedings by implementing a procedure for public trials. The Sixth Amendment focuses on a speedy justice delivery system so that no innocent suffers due to time delays in courtroom proceedings. It guarantees the exercise of one of the Miranda rights of the accused to be represented by legal counsel. The Sixth Amendment states that every person accused of an offense has the right to be represented by a legal attorney. They have the right to seek the advice of their counsel before proceeding with their case. In cases where the accused is financially incapable of hiring a legal representative for himself, it becomes the duty of the state to provide legal assistance to the accused free of charge.
The Sixth Amendment states that it is the right of the accused or alleged offender to be informed of the charges against them. They must know the reasons for their detention in detail. Further, they have a right to confront the witnesses against them in cross-examination. They also have a right to procure evidence and gather witnesses in their favor. Finally, they have the right to adequate and fair legal representation at every stage of criminal proceedings and trials.
Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
The origins of Miranda rights can be traced to the landmark 1996 judgment of Miranda v. Arizona. In this case, Ernesto Miranda was arrested on charges of kidnapping and rape. After the arrest, a two hours long interrogation took place in police custody in a place secluded from the rest of the world. Thereafter, he was made to sign a written confession, which was used as evidence against him and led to his conviction. However, it later came to his attorney’s knowledge that the accused was not informed of his basic rights as a prisoner before signing the confession. He was not informed about his right to seek legal assistance or his right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment of the US Bill of Rights. Ernesto Miranda’s court-appointed attorney argued that Ernesto Miranda was not informed of his right to remain silent, to seek legal counsel, or that any confession he makes can and will be used against him as evidence to support his conviction. Therefore, the confession obtained by the police and other officials from Ernesto Miranda has not been made voluntarily. Thus, this information should be excluded from being used as evidence in the instant case. However, the Court did not accept these contentions and convicted Ernesto Miranda, stating that Miranda did not make a request for a personal attorney to be appointed for him during interrogation. This was, however, due to the fact that Miranda was not informed by the police before beginning the interrogation that he has the right to have an attorney appointed for him before he begins answering questions in the interrogation. Thereafter, Miranda’s lawyer filed an appeal with the US Supreme Court.
A cluster of four cases was filed in total to discuss a similar issue. Apart from the case of Miranda v. Arizona, the other cases were:
Vignera v. New York (1966)
In this case, Vignera was arrested by the New York police in pursuance of robbery charges against him. After conducting interrogations, he orally admitted the charges and thus, was arrested formally. He was further questioned by an assistant district attorney. This interrogation was recorded and used as evidence against him before the jury. Thereafter, he was convicted of first-degree robbery and punished with imprisonment for 30 – 60 years. This conviction was affirmed without seeking the opinion of the Appellate Division or the Court of Appeals.
Westover v. the United States (1968)
In this case, Westover was arrested and taken to the local police station on alleged charges of two robberies in Kansas City. The arrest was also requested by the FBI, which wanted Westover because a felony charge had been made against him in California. After the arrest, he was interrogated twice by the police, which was followed by another interrogation by the FBI. He was made to sign two different confessions on account of two different robberies that took place in California. These confessions were used as evidence in trials, and he was convicted of two different robberies with 15 years of imprisonment for each. This conviction was further approved by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
California v. Stewart (1965)
In this case, Stewart was arrested in pursuance of purse-snatch robberies, in one of which a woman died due to injuries inflicted on her during the incident. Stewart was identified as the endorser of one of the stolen cheques in the robbery. The police arrested Stewart from his home along with his wife and also three other people who had visited his house during the arrest. After his arrest, the police put Stewart in jail and interrogated him nine times in the next five days. During the final interrogation, Stewart confessed that he had robbed the lady but stated that he did not intend to inflict injuries on her. The police released the four other people who were detained when no evidence of their connection to the case was found after keeping them for nine days. The confessions made by Stewart were used as evidence against him, and he was convicted of robbery and first-degree murder. He was thereby sentenced to death. It was found that Stewart was not informed of his right to seek legal counsel or his right to remain silent during interrogations. When the case reached the Supreme Court on appeal, the Court reversed the judgment on this ground.
These three cases came to the Supreme Court to decide on the fairness of the decisions and which gave rise to Miranda rights. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the statements made during interrogations in the form of confessions, written or oral admissible in criminal trials against them as evidence. Further, the implementation of the Fifth Amendment rights was in question as the people under investigation were not informed of their rights under the said Amendment.
The Supreme Court held that the Fifth Amendment rights are not limited to the trial stage of criminal proceedings. It is applicable throughout the processes involved in a criminal proceeding, right from arresting a person on an allegation to the execution of the punishment. This includes the stage of custodial interrogation. The Court stated that the protection of the Fifth Amendment is available outside the courtroom as well, in any process that curtails or threatens to curtail a person’s life, liberty, or property. A person cannot be forced to incriminate himself in any of these situations. Therefore, statements made by the accused during interrogation cannot be used as evidence against him unless the accused was informed about his Fifth Amendment rights and the interrogating officer took all procedural safeguards to protect the accused from making self-incriminating statements.
The Supreme Court stated that a “custodial interrogation” can be seen as any process involving questioning by any officer or personnel of law enforcement of a person who is accused of an offense. This can be at any place and in any form, and as long as it involves the deprivation of the person’s freedom in any way, it is deemed to be a custodial interrogation. Therefore, the above three cases are instances of custodial interrogation. The Supreme Court observed that when a person is not properly and appropriately informed of his rights while in custody, it puts an apprehension of not having any rights in the mind of the accused, and this affects the will of the person making statements. They tend to make statements that are self-incriminatory in nature. Thus, the Court held that a person has a right to know that when he makes a statement that can be used against him in a court of law, he has the legal right to refrain from making those statements. Further, he has a right to seek the assistance of an attorney at every stage of the criminal proceedings. He has the right to remain silent when asked for information that is self-incriminating in nature.
By stating these observations, the Supreme Court reversed the judgments of Miranda v. Arizona, Vignera v. New York, and Westover v. United States and upheld the judgment of the Supreme Court of California in Stewart v. California, which recognized the rights of the person under custody and reversed the punishment inflicted upon the accused based on statements that were given by him without knowing his rights. The US Supreme Court with a 5:4 majority held that the evidence admitted in the court shall be disregarded and set aside as the information obtained by police was held to be unconstitutional since Miranda was not informed of his rights before making the confessions. A similar stand was taken by the Supreme Court in the cases of Vignera v. New York and Westover v. United States.
This decision also became essential in realizing the ill-trends of obtaining forced confessions by the police and other law enforcement officers from people who are suspects in a crime. This often also leads to punishing the one who is not guilty because they confessed under forceful conditions without knowing their rights. These wrongful convictions lead to losing the spirit of the US justice system and legal framework. The decision in this case also emphasized the importance of having an attorney guide you during custodial interrogation. The presence of an attorney ensures the voluntary nature of the procedure, that the person is informed of his rights, and that the confessions are not obtained forcefully. Most significantly, the Miranda decision became a symbol of justice without any discrimination in the US as it took proper care of the rights of the accused or convict.
This decision gave rise to specific rights that are included in the right against self-incrimination. They are:
- The right to remain silent.
- The right to know that statements made by a person can be used against him in a court of law.
- The accused in custody has a right to be represented by an attorney.
- When a person is financially incapable of hiring legal assistance in his defense, it is the duty of the state to provide him with legal assistance, free of cost.
Understanding Miranda rights and warnings
The Miranda rights arose as a consequence of the aforementioned decision of the US Supreme Court. The Miranda warnings are issued with the intent to protect against the infringement of individuals’ Fifth Amendment rights by answering self-incriminatory questions. It is pertinent to note that Miranda rights are applicable only after the arrest is made. Questions asked to a person by the police before that person is arrested, such as the basic booking questions do not come within the ambit of protection of Miranda rights. However, this person must be informed that he/she/they can leave at any moment, as the questioning is voluntary. If a person, knowing this, still makes statements or gives information to the police voluntarily, such statements are admissible in a court of law as evidence.
Therefore, as a general procedure, it is the duty of the interrogating officer or others to read the Miranda rights to the accused before the beginning of the interrogation. In other words, the accused is to be “Mirandized.” The Miranda rights are read as:
“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 provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
The accused must give a clear and direct answer to this as an affirmation or rejection before speaking further. If the accused wishes for the state to provide them with an attorney, they must give a clear affirmation about the same. Silence cannot be an answer. It cannot be deemed a waiver of the need for legal assistance by the state, as the accused’s silence may mean that they did not fully understand their rights or the question posed to them. If the accused is unable to understand English, their Miranda rights shall be translated to a language they understand and pronounced to them. Such a translation shall be recorded.
The right to remain silent
A person in custody has the right to remain silent. They can invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and choose to remain silent when a question asked to them is of a nature that can be self-incriminating to them. Thus, as a Miranda right, an accused has the right to remain silent during interrogation and during trials. Such silence shall not be used against them or seen as a reason for creating suspicion about the innocence of a person just because they chose to remain silent. However, if a person remains silent even before they have been Mirandaized (pre-Miranda silence), meaning before their Miranda rights are read to them, in such a situation, the silence can lead to reasonable suspicion. Such silence can and will be used by the prosecution lawyer to prove guilt on the part of the accused. If a person in custody chooses to waive their right to remain silent after their Miranda rights have been read to them, they have to answer all questions put forward to them, and they shall bear the consequences of those answers when these answers are used as evidence against them.
Anything said can and will be used in a court of law
It is essential that a person who is to undergo custodial interrogation be informed that anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law. The right to remain silent is attributed to this Miranda warning that when a person makes statements to police or other officials of law enforcement, even after knowing their right to remain silent, any and all statements made by them or questions answered by them can and will be used against them in a court as evidence. When someone, knowing their rights, makes statements, those statements are admissible in court. This is also applicable when a person waives their rights under the Fifth Amendment. These rights are articulated to protect a person from making self-incriminating statements.
The right to an attorney
The Miranda rights affirm that every person who is in custody or is a suspect in a criminal proceeding has the right to be represented by an attorney. They have the right to seek legal advice and assistance before answering questions in interrogations and have the right to act upon their case on the advice of their attorney. The attorney further assists the accused in the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses. They assist the accused in presenting witnesses in their favor. In cases where the accused is financially incapable of hiring legal aid for themself, it is the duty of the state to provide them with an attorney free of cost. Further, the state must ensure that this appointed attorney is reliable, impartial, and has the best interests of the accused in mind. The police pronounce this as a part of an accused’s Miranda rights, that they have a right to consult their attorney before answering questions asked to them during interrogations.
Attorney provided by state
As stated above, it is the obligation of the state to provide the accused with an attorney if they cannot do so himself, for financial incapabilities or otherwise. This appointed attorney must act in good faith with the accused’s best interests in mind. The state-appointed attorney shall represent the accused during every stage of a criminal proceeding. These attorneys shall advise the accused before the accused starts answering questions during an interrogation. They shall conduct cross-examination of prosecution witnesses and assist the accused in obtaining witnesses for himself. An attorney is appointed in order to ensure that the person under the judicial custody of the state exercises all their rights in full capacity and understands them well. It is done to ensure impartiality and justice.
Exceptions to Miranda rights
Mentioned below are the exceptions to Miranda rights:
The public safety exception
There is only one exception to the Miranda rights in the United States is the exception of “public safety.” This is a right limited to specific cases that are of a nature that affects public safety. In these instances, even when a confession or piece of information has been obtained without informing an individual of their Miranda rights, it is still admissible in a court of law. This is when the information is of such a nature that it protects the public interest from imminent danger.
It was seen in the case of New York v. Quarles (1984) that the police obtained a statement from an individual suspected of committing rape and thereby carrying firearms. He was arrested at night at a supermarket that was open to the general public. When the police caught the suspect, they asked him where the gun was, which he answered, and then the gun was found. In this instance, there was no time to read them their Miranda rights. Even so, this was admissible in court as evidence, seeing the gravity of the situation and the need of the hour. Therefore, in situations of public safety from imminent danger or apprehension, Miranda rights must yield to public safety.
A part of the public safety exception is the emergency exception. In situations of emergency where the police or any law enforcement officer acts on their instinct as there is no time to take a different recourse or to do things differently, and by following the due process of law, the accused cannot take a defense that they were not informed of their Miranda rights and thus, their rights have been violated. For instance, the police reach a crime scene where they find a dead body, and a man is immediately seen running away from that place. The police catch him and find him a suspect. The police find that the person had a weapon with him and immediately ask him where it is. The suspect answers, and this helps the police secure evidence as well as ensure further safety at the crime scene. The suspect also reveals another person who accompanied him, and the police catch him. All these incidents took place in the heat of the moment and as an emergency measure. Therefore, a person cannot assert the defense that these incidents led to their incrimination since they were not informed of their Miranda rights and that they had the right to remain silent.
Basic interrogation exception
One exception to Miranda rights is the “basic booking questions” exception. When the police reach a crime scene or place of incident, they sometimes catch suspects to put them under police custody. This is done with the purpose of getting information from them on the situations and circumstances of the case. When the police take a person into their custody, they are required to undergo a formal procedure to make a formal arrest. While doing so, the police have the liberty to ask the person who is to be arrested some basic questions. Questions such as their name, address, their nationality, their profession, date of birth, etc. Certain questions like these are of the nature that aims to gain a general understanding of the person who has been arrested by the police. The basic question exception is applicable at all times, not just at the beginning. This exception is applicable irrespective of the accused’s or arrested person’s right to remain silent. Even when the accused chooses to exercise their Miranda rights, they cannot refrain from answering these basic questions asked to them by the police. Therefore, Miranda rights are no defense for an accused to not answer the basic questions about himself. This is because these questions are in no way of a nature that may incriminate a person or tend to be used against them as evidence.
These basic questions are also known as “booking questions.” The police need to gather certain information about an individual as and when he is arrested and put under police custody. This is done to maintain records of the person in the police station and for the criminals’ records of the state. Therefore, the accused cannot refuse to answer these questions. In other words, Miranda rights are not available and cannot be exercised against basic questions. Thus, a question about their infringement does not arise in the first place.
Hence, an exception to the Miranda rights of an accused is the exception of the basic questions, at the booking stage as well as at any stage of interrogation, as long as the questions strictly fall within the category of these exceptions.
Jailhouse informant exception
Another interesting exception to the Miranda rights is the one made for a jailhouse informant. A jailhouse informant or criminal informant refers to a person who is an agent of the state or the government. These people are either undercover/secret agents or are fellow criminals in jail. When fellow criminal acts as an informant, they are known as “criminal informants.” This person does so in exchange for benefits from the state, which are usually not expressed in the form of money. Rather, they do it in exchange for a promise from the state to reduce their sentence. However, a major disadvantage of criminal informants is that they provide misleading information. They inform untrue statements to the government and the state which they claim to have obtained from their fellow criminals. They do so as an attempt to succeed in reducing their sentence with whatever information is available and at the cost of others. In this process, innocents can be unjustly trapped. This occurs at a stage where the court proceedings are ongoing and meanwhile the person is arrested and put in jail. False testimonies are hard to identify, and this is the disadvantage of this procedure when criminal informants testify in court. They are moved by the motive of doing their own good and this ultimately leads to the bad of one who did no wrong. Ironically enough, the court relies on one criminal to help find another; this often creates chaos and injustice that is hard to identify.
There is another form of jailhouse informant, which is in the form of undercover agents or secret agents who can also act as jailhouse informants to extract information and confessions from the accused in jail. These people are paid agents of the government and the state who disguise themselves as criminals in jail. They regularly talk to the criminals in jail and try to extract the truth from them. The criminals often reveal the truth to them as they confess to committing the crime. They do so with an apprehension that they are talking to their fellow inmates.
The jailhouse informant exception has been made to the Miranda rights in order to make an attempt to gather confessions from an accused. This is a trick that has been used in the American justice delivery system for a long time and has proven effective in obtaining confessions in several instances. The law of the state puts this process as an exception to the Miranda rights of an individual because there is no coercion by the jailhouse informant on the accused making confessions. They are not forced to share this information but are rather doing so out of their own free will. Thus, the Miranda rights exception for jailhouse informants has been legally recognized and practiced by the states.
Yet another exception to the Miranda rule is the exception on the impeachment of witnesses. For instance, when a defendant testifies in a court of law and makes statements that are contradictory to statements previously made by him during custodial interrogations, the exception can be invoked. In this situation, the prosecution lawyer can impeach the defendant’s credibility and statements. The prosecution lawyer can present shards of evidence or statements previously made by the defendant to prove this contradiction. The state and law also allow the prosecution attorney to obtain statements from the defendant in contravention of the Miranda rights he possesses. This is regarded not as a contravention but as an exception to the general rule. The court allows admission of statements obtained in exception to the Miranda rights of the accused when their credibility has been disputed. Though the admissions made by an uninformed or insufficiently informed defendant can not be used against him as evidence in trials, they become admissible in situations like these where their credibility is in question. Such impeachment was allowed by the US courts in cases like Harris v. New York (1971) and Oregon v. Hass (1975).
Apart from these, a routine traffic inspection, and thereby stopping any person and asking questions, is not protected by the Miranda rules. Routine questions asked at any public place or otherwise to gather certain information from a person that in no way incriminates them are also not protected by the Miranda rule. When the accused waives their right to remain silent or refuses other rights offered to them, such as the right to the legal assistance of an attorney, such person can no longer claim their Miranda rights have been violated, as it was them who waived those rights.
Juvenile’s Miranda rights
Before the twentieth century, juveniles were subjected to the same procedure of the court and due process as adults in the United States. It was only in the industrialization era that the concept of parens patriae developed, which stated that the state could intervene to protect and ensure child welfare. Juvenile courts were also established in the 1900s. These courts functioned differently from adult courts. They conducted informal proceedings, lacked jury trials, and had several other shortcomings. Major changes came to this system due to the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of In re Gault (1967). This decision came soon after the 1966 landmark judgment of Miranda v. Arizona. Thus, the impact of this judgment was visible in the 1967 decision. The Supreme Court held in this case that the due process clause of the US Bill of Rights is applicable to juvenile court proceedings as well, in a similar manner as they are applicable to adult court proceedings. The Supreme Court observed that juveniles have the following rights in criminal trials:
- A right to receive a notice.
- A right to legal counsel.
- A right to confront witnesses.
- A privilege against self-incrimination in hearings that are of such nature.
The right to receive a notice in the case of juveniles is twofold. First, the juvenile must be properly informed about the charges made against him. Further, the juvenile’s parents must be informed that their child has been taken into custody by the police. The juvenile’s parents must be served with a notice regarding the same. The Supreme Court in this case further stated that the juvenile has a right to be represented by an attorney during trials and accompanied by him during interrogations. The attorney shall also advise the juvenile on crucial legal implications governing their case. The Court stated that if the juvenile is unable to secure legal assistance for himself, the Court will provide him with legal assistance by appointing an attorney for him. The Supreme Court also stated in this case that the juvenile will have a right to confront prosecution witnesses and cross-examine them. They also have a right to secure witnesses in support of their case. Thus, the Court ultimately extended the Miranda rights, which were established by the 1966 judgment, to juveniles as well, just the way they are applicable to adults.
The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Code (18 USC § 5033) makes a legal provision for the rules made in the aforementioned judgment. The code states that when a juvenile is arrested by the police, the police must inform him of their legal rights immediately. This shall be done in a language that the juvenile understands. Thereafter, the police must inform about such arrest to the Attorney General and a notice must be sent to the arrested juvenile’s parents, guardian, or custodian. Simply informing them of the arrest does not suffice. The notice must also specify details about the charges made against the juvenile. They shall be informed about the legal rights that juveniles have in defending their case. The Code also states that the juvenile must be taken to the magistrate and their case be presented before the magistrate. The police cannot detain the juvenile for a period beyond a reasonable time before presenting him before the magistrate.
As a result of the legal implications of the provisions of this Code, the police officer or law enforcement officer in whose custody the juvenile is, as well as the state, is expected to adhere to these rules and fulfill certain obligations in cases dealing with juveniles.
First, it is the obligation of the state and its officials to make an effort to find out the parents or guardians of the juvenile before they start interrogating him. The state and its officials must act in good faith. In the case of United States v. Burrous (1996), a juvenile was arrested on charges of armed robbery. The arresting officers made several attempts to locate his parents or guardian. He did not give any information to locate his parents or brother, even after asking several times. Soon after, the juvenile waived his Miranda rights and gave a confession. The Court held that this confession is admissible in Court as evidence since the arresting officers, in good faith, made several attempts to locate the juvenile’s parents. Also, he waived his Miranda rights and made the confession voluntarily.
Further, the juvenile’s parents or guardian must be “immediately” informed about the arrest and about the rights that the juvenile has in his defense. The Court held in the case of United States v. John Doe (1984) that even though the arresting officers informed the juvenile’s parents before they began interrogating him, such information and the notice were served three and a half hours after the arrest was made. Therefore, the Court held that this information was not “immediate” as mandated by the Code.
Further, it is the duty of the arresting officer to inform the juvenile’s parents about the arrest. In the case of United States v. Juvenile (RRA-A) (2000), the arresting officer delegated his duty to inform the juvenile’s parents twice. First, he delegated it to an AUSA and then a secretary in the United States Attorney’s office. A delegation is not permitted in juvenile cases, and in the instant case, the juvenile was a foreign national whose parents did not live in the USA. Thus, informing the appropriate foreign consulate was required. As it is an exceptional situation, the Court held that informing the foreign consulate to inform the juvenile’s parents will not be treated as a violation of the due process clause. In the instant case, because the arresting officer delegated his work twice at the beginning and did not inform the foreign consulate to inform the juvenile’s parents, the Court considered the violation prejudicial and suppressed the juvenile’s confession.
Further, the general rule is that the juvenile must be “forthwith” brought before the magistrate. However, the Court recognizes exceptional situations as fair after looking into the facts and circumstances of the case. In United States v. John Doe, there was a 34 hours delay before the juvenile was presented before the magistrate. However, this delay was due to the non-availability of magistrates. The state agents as well were busy with urgent cases, and the government refused to use the pre-arraignment statements of the juvenile. Thus, the delay was justified and did not constitute a violation of the Code.
Further, the voluntariness of the juvenile’s confession is considered to be there as long as he is not forced by the police to make such a confession. In the case of United States v. Erving (1998), officers stopped questioning a juvenile as he invoked his right to remain silent. However, the juvenile’s mother persuaded him to make the confession to the police. The juvenile’s parents were present throughout the interrogation, and the juvenile himself made the confession after repeated persuasion by his mother. He made the confession without any compulsion on part of the law enforcement officers. Therefore, the Court stated that the confession is admissible as it was made voluntarily and without compulsion.
Finally, a juvenile’s choice to exercise his right to remain silent or to seek legal assistance from an attorney must be stated clearly and directly. In the case of Fare v. Michael C. (1979), the police read his Miranda rights to an arrested juvenile. After this, the juvenile said that he wanted to talk to his probation officer. A probation officer’s duty is to inform the juvenile when and if he gets into trouble. He cannot represent the juvenile or his case during interrogation. Thus, the officers denied the juvenile’s request to talk to the probation officer. After this, the arresting officer read the Miranda rights of the juvenile to him for the second time. This time, he agreed to speak without the presence of an attorney on his behalf. Thus, the Court observed that the juvenile himself agreed to speak without the presence of an attorney, and he never requested to be represented by an attorney even when his Miranda rights were read to him twice. Therefore, the Court considered this a waiver of his rights and stated that neither the Code nor the Miranda rights of the juvenile were violated by the officers.
Therefore, juveniles are guaranteed Miranda rights just as adults, and the exercise of these rights by the juvenile must be guaranteed by the arresting officers and the law enforcement departments.
Miranda rights effect on guilty confessions
Confessions are made at several stages of a trial. The admissibility of these confessions of guilt depends upon the circumstances under which they were made. When an accused makes a guilty confession without knowing about their legal rights, such as the right to remain silent, or before their Miranda rights are read to them, such confessions are not admissible in a court of law and are considered to have been obtained wrongfully and without the accused’s knowledge of their rights. This non-admissibility principle also extends to confessions that are forcibly obtained by the police or other law enforcement officers. This is because a forced confession is not made with the free will of the person making it. It goes against the legal rights guaranteed to the individual in custody.
When confessions are made in jails, which in reality are confessions extracted by jailhouse informants who are undercover agents of the state and the government, such confessions are admissible in a court of law. This is because the confession was in no way obtained by coercion or the use of force. This is a regularly used method in the United States legal system as an attempt to extract confessions from the accused while they are in jail. A confession made by this method is admissible in a court of law, as the jailhouse informant principle is regarded as an exception to the Miranda rule.
Further, a confession made by an accused out of their own free will is admissible in a court of law. When the accused is well informed of their rights and was not in any way forced to make confessions, yet makes a guilty confession, such a confession is admissible in court and can be used against them in the case. There are instances where an accused decides to waive their Miranda rights. When the accused waives their Miranda rights, they lose their right to remain silent and must answer all questions put forth by them. A confession made in this circumstance is admissible in a court of law. This confession can and will be used against them to support the conviction in their case. A confession can be made either during interrogation or during trial hearings. Thus, a lawfully made confession made following the due process of law and in the absence of coercion or any compelling factor is admissible in a court of law.
It is interesting to know that when the Supreme Court refused to convict Ernesto Miranda because he was not informed of his rights, which later came to be known as Miranda rights, a fresh trial was instituted. He was convicted again for kidnapping and rape, this time while following procedural fairness. After he was released after completing his sentence, he was stabbed to death. The primary suspect in his murder case was arrested. This person chose to invoke his Miranda right to remain silent. He was thereafter released without being charged with the crime. This is how the Miranda rights come full circle when it comes to dealing with criminal cases in the United States.
A major part of the Miranda rights is the right to remain silent. Every individual has the right to choose to remain silent whenever a question posed to them is of a nature that incriminates them. The right to remain silent is thoughtfully articulated as a part of the Miranda rights because, in its absence, the situation may become such that the individuals give a forced confession or make a confession against their will and out of fear. They will not know their rights and will become victims of forceful interrogation by the police or other law enforcement officers. Another essential part of the Miranda rights is the right to seek legal assistance. Any person in custody has a right to be represented by a lawyer while he is charged with criminal offenses. The Miranda rights make provisions for the same, where this right of a person in custody is recognized by the law. Further, the Miranda rights also guarantee the exercise of this right by making it a state obligation to provide an attorney to the individual who is incapable of hiring one for himself. The right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel are interrelated in such a way that the person in custody has the Miranda right to choose to remain silent until he is accompanied by an attorney. Thus, one right completes another, and in the absence of one, the exercise of the other can become insignificant. The right to seek legal assistance has been given importance because general citizens will not know the legal implications of their arrest, their rights, and the proper conduct to face interrogation. Therefore, the attorney of the accused person helps them to give suitable answers and maintain conduct that will not incriminate them.
The Miranda rights play a crucial role in ensuring justice and equality in the US. It rightly upholds these values as the Miranda rights are applicable without any discrimination, in the same manner to citizens and non-citizens, men and women, adults and juveniles, etc. Though there are exceptions to the Miranda rights in the United States, none of those exceptions are based on discrimination of any kind. Exceptions to Miranda rights are the public safety exception or emergency exception, the exception for jailhouse informants, the impeachment exception, and the basic booking questions exception. These are genuine grounds for public safety and necessities that the state must make provisions for.
The Miranda rights are part and parcel of the US justice delivery system, and a violation of these rights is unacceptable in US courts. When people in custody are not informed of their Miranda rights, such a defense can be used to deny the decision made in the case. Evidence obtained without informing the suspect of their Miranda rights cannot be made admissible in a court of law. If admitted, and a decision has been made based on such evidence, it is the obligation of the higher court to reverse this judgment and reject the decision made. A fresh trial will follow to ensure a decision based on substantial and procedural fairness and justice. Arising from the landmark 1966 judgment of Miranda v. Arizona, the case has made a significant impact in upholding justice, morality, impartiality, and fairness in the US legal system. Thus, the Miranda rights aim to establish justice and fairness in criminal proceedings in the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between Miranda rights and Miranda warnings?
The rights that the accused has during interrogations in criminal proceedings, such as the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and others, are their Miranda rights. When these rights are pronounced before them by the law enforcement official who intends to interrogate them, they are known as “warnings” or “Miranda warnings.”
When is it required to pronounce the Miranda warnings?
It is required for the police or any other law enforcement officer to read Miranda warnings to a person when:
- The suspect is in custody. The meaning of custody is not confined to jail but extends to any establishment or detainment of a person which is of a nature that curtails their freedom in a significant manner.
- The police intend to interrogate the person in custody. Simple questions made to the suspect before actual interrogation, such as their name, address, etc., are not protected by Miranda rights.
What happens when a person’s Miranda rights are violated?
When it is found that a person’s Miranda rights have been violated, it is the obligation of the judge to exclude admission of the information gathered by such a violation from the trial. If a case has been decided without knowing that the accused person’s Miranda rights were violated, the decision needs to be set aside.
What is the process that follows when the Miranda rights of a person are violated?
The defendant’s lawyer files a motion claiming the violation of Miranda rights of the defendant. Upon receiving the motion, the judge may order an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the Miranda rights of the defendant were violated. After hearing the contentions of both sides, the judge determines whether a violation has occurred. Thereafter, the judge determines the furtherance of the case in consonance with these findings.
What are the procedural requirements in appealing against the violation of an individual’s Miranda rights?
The defendant’s lawyer must follow the following steps in appealing against the violation of the defendant’s Miranda rights:
- A motion claiming such a violation must be filed in court.
- The motion must be filed in writing.
- The motion must either be filed before the trials begin or at the stage of appeals.
- The motion must contain detailed information about the factual matrix of the circumstances and the grounds stating legal infringement of rights.
- The motion must be supported by evidence and affidavits.
Why the right to remain silent is important?
When a person is caught as a suspect in a crime, it is the duty of the police to do everything in their power to obtain confessions or evidence from the suspect. They may try to trick the suspect into giving statements that will take the form of evidence, without even forcing them to confess. This is where the Miranda rights come into the picture and the reason why Miranda rights were made into law. In situations like these, the person whose questions are being asked by the police can refrain from doing so without the presence of an attorney by their side. Even when a person is innocent, invoking their right to remain silent is always a wise choice in order to prevent himself from falling into a loop without having any mistakes.
If I choose to remain silent, can this be used against me in my case?
At times it may so happen that the prosecution lawyer takes this choice of silence as an opportunity to establish guilt against a person. They may try to portray guilt as the person decided not to speak about it. However, the Miranda rights ensure that when a person chooses to remain silent by exercising their Miranda rights, such silence shall not be used as a defense to establish guilt against the accused. Further, it is advisable that the person being interrogated refuses to speak unless they are accompanied by an attorney. This will make an impression that the accused know their rights instead of making the impression that the person is trying to avoid guilt by remaining silent.
Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skills.
LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals, and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join: