On June 13, 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court made its decision in Miranda v. Arizona, establishing the principle that all criminal suspects must be advised of their rights before interrogation. As presided over by Chief Justice Earl Warren until mid-1969, the U.S. Supreme Court dramatically reshaped the nation’s criminal justice system in the 1960s. Miranda v. Arizona is a major landmark in the Warren Court’s expansion of rights of the accused. The decision in Miranda v. Arizona reversed criminal convictions and threw out statements made by the defendant, Ernesto Miranda, while in police custody. The accused, the Court wrote, had not been apprised of his right not to incriminate himself or of his right to consult an attorney and have one present during interrogation. This violation of constitutional rights made his confession to the police, the major piece of evidence upon which the state relied for his conviction, inadmissible.
In his majority opinion, Warren presents a highly specific list of warnings and rights, which came to be known as Miranda warnings, that police must give to defendants in order to satisfy their fifth amendment legal privileges. The impact of Miranda v. Arizona, measured purely as a legal standard, began to dissipate shortly after it was handed down. Nonetheless, the general impact of the case cannot be denied, for, as noted in a Los Angeles Times editorial by the constitutional law scholar Akhil Reed Amar, “Miranda has been woven into the fabric of daily life.” Police departments incorporate the Miranda rules into their training and practices, sometimes printing the Miranda rights on cards for officers to hand to suspects. Americans are likely more familiar with the particulars of the holding in this case than in any other ever heard by the Supreme Court, for the Miranda warnings are common parlance on television and in crime fiction. Overall, the Warren Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona, as well as the decisions in prior cases that championed rights of the accused, undoubtedly set in motion political forces that helped shape the nation’s future.
Read our full coverage of Miranda v. Arizona, including in-depth analysis by the legal scholar Randy Wagner.