Essay: Miranda v. Arizona

The background of the case rotates in depth on issues pertinent to the rights to be granted an attorney and self-incrimination as enshrined in the 5th amendment under the United States constitution.

The 5th amendment privilege in text provides that, no suspect will be compelled to answer for any capital or infamous crime, unless directed or indicated by the relevant Grand Jury. The only exception being granted to ceases in land and naval spaces that fall under the militia sphere of interest. When in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be forced in any criminal case to be his/her own witness, 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 [384, U.S.436]

The background of this case in question is based on the American criminal Jurisprudence i.e. the restraints that society must observe to be consistent and in harmony with the federal constitution in delivering judgement on criminally accused individuals. To be precise, the case is characterised with admissibility of confessions obtained from a suspected criminal via police interrogation while in their custody and the necessity for procedures to insure all individuals suspected to have committed a reported crime are accorded their privilege under the 5th amendment.

The background of the case if investigated in substance is not an innovation in Criminal Jurisprudence. It is the application of principles rarely used and recognized in criminal settings. These rights in the words of Justice Marshall are secured to approach immorality as nearly as established institutions can dare it.
The previous system of odious interrogation that brought about unfair incrimination consequently led to the demand for total abolition of that system. Criminal law procedure change in this case was not founded upon no statute of judicial opinion, but upon a general and silent acquiescence of the courts in popular demand. Though the system was originally adopted, it became firmly embedded in American Jurisprudence and became clothed in the United States with the impregnability of a constitutional enactment.
The case has an origin in a protest against the inquisitorial and manifestly unjust methods of interrogating accused persons. While the admissions of confessions of the accused person(s), when voluntarily and freely made, have always ranked high in the scale of incriminating evidence, such a reason cannot be sufficient to suffice an exemption to violate rights granted under the United States constitution.

However the background case has intent to lay down precedent that dictates authoritatively that no prosecution may use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination.

A single dimensional precedent was sought to be set in the Miranda case i.e. to curb authorities from extorting confessions through use of physical brutality, beatings, whipping, sustained and protracted questioning incommunicado as seen from previous extensive factual studies. This case sought to set a fair plain field ensuring that such overzealous police practices did not in return turn the American Constitution to a mere form of words.

2. FACTS OF THE CASE

On March 13th, 1963, petitioner Ernesto Miranda was arrested at his home and taken into custody to a Phoenix Police Station, where he was positively identified by the complainant. The police then took him to an ‘Interrogation Room dubbed Number.2’ at the detective bureau premises. There he was questioned by two officers for more than one hour, who eventually managed to compel Miranda to confess doing the offence in written form and undersigned it. They further admitted at trial that Miranda was not advised that he had a right to have an attorney present during his ‘Room 2′ interrogation.

At the top of the statement was a typed paragraph stating that the confession was made voluntarily and freely without any promises of immunity and with full knowledge of all legal rights, understanding that any statements that the accused made would be used against them. At his trial before a jury the written confession was admitted in evidence over the objection of the defence counsel and the officers testified to the prior oral confession made by Miranda during the Interrogation. Miranda was later convicted for rape and kidnapping.

He was sentenced to 20 – 30 years imprisonment on each account, the sentences to run concurrently. On appeal, the supreme court of Arizona shockingly ruled that no constitutional rights violation was done in Miranda’s case in the process of obtaining the confession and reaffirmed the conviction. In reaching its decision the court emphasized heavily of the fact that Miranda did not specifically request counsel.

3. ISSUES

The issues under the case in synopsis can be categorised into two parts namely;

a) The Restraints society must be consistent with the Federal Constitution in prosecuting individuals with crime.

b) The constitutional issue of admissibility of statements obtained from an individual who is subjected to custodial police interrogation and the necessity for procedures which assure that the individual is accorded his privilege under Fifth Amendment of the constitution not to be compelled to incriminate against himself.

4. COURT HOLDING AND RATIONALE

The supreme court Mr Chief Justice warren held that statements obtained from defendants during interrogation in police dominated atmosphere without warning about any constitutional rights infringement were deemed inadmissible as having been obtained contrary to the provision of the Self-incrimination right granted by the fifth Amendment.

Based on the officers’ testimony and the admission of the respondent, it is crystal clear and known that Miranda was not appraised of his right to consult and discuss with an attorney or either granted one during his police interrogation. Furthermore his right of self-incrimination was violated and never protected in any way provided by the constitution.

Without these warnings, the statements were inadmissible. The mere fact that he signed a statement which contained a typed in clause stating that he had full knowledge of his legal rights does not approach the knowing and intelligent waiver required to relinquish and established constitutional rights.
Further, the court held that it is not sufficient to do justice by obtaining a proper result using irregular or improper means. Not only does the use of third degree involve flagrant violation of the law it also involves the dangers of obtaining a false confession, and it tends to make police and prosecutors less zealous in the search of objective evidence. The third degree way of obtaining confessions dehumanizes police, toughens the accused and lowers the esteem in which the administration of justice is held by the public.
At the onset, when a person is under arrest and subject to any kind of interrogation, they should be given prior knowledge of weather to willingly answer questions or remain silent in the process. For those unaware of the privilege, the warning is needed simply to make them aware of it. Such a warning is a precaution of preventing and overcoming any kind of biasness present in the interrogation atmosphere. Cautioning a suspect to remain silent is not only enough but should be preceded by informing them that anything uttered about the case will be used against them in the corridors of justice. This is necessary to not only make them aware of the constitutional provision but also of consequences of foregoing it.
Furthermore, it was upheld that if an individual is under any police custody and subject to any interrogation for evidence gathering should be granted access to an attorney in the process or consult one before accepting the request. This was mainly done to protect The Fifth Amendment privileges provided by the law of the land.

RATIONALE

The rationale for the holding was anchored on the school of thought that viewed custody interrogation as a psychological game plan rather than being physically based. Any interrogation environment created for no other purpose than to subjugate the person to the will of the examiner is seen to be destructive and in violation to human dignity.

Practising of incommunicado interrogation is a severe breach of the Fifth Amendment which has its core principles that a person is not a subject to self-incrimination when under custody unless sufficient protective mechanisms and precautions are used to dispel any unnecessary pressure caused by in custom interrogation environment. If this is ignored no response from the defender will be as a result of free expression
By taking an individual into custody, self-inclination privileges are seriously jeopardized. These procedural therefore safe guards if upholding has an aim of protecting the set privileges or other set methods are used to notify the suspect of their constitutional privileges and rights of deciding to remain silent. Furthermore they should be assured that the right will be honoured to the later, the measures in the holding are required.

DISSENTING (MR JUSTICE CLARK)

The materials the court uses in determining the matter referring to as police manuals were merely writings in the field of interrogation by some professors and investigation officers. Records do not attribute any of them as an official manual of any law enforcement agency/ department much less established in any universal detection capacity. Majority of the court holding was characterised by police brutality which was a big contrast of other thousands of cases appearing before the court annually according to the law report. The majority decision lacks judicial precedent support in American Jurisprudence. With an aim to justify their case, the majority agree that any accused individual is entitled to an attorney for consultation or granted the platform to be silent after arrest by being warned that any utterance will surely be used against them in a court of law.

Instead of implementing the Fifth Amendment arbitrarily that has been provided by the court, it will be more prudent to allow the constitutional provision in the Fourteenth and Fifth amendments which were set to protect persons in custody be effective. Following this set procedure will be acting against the dark and one cell sweep changes theory which is crucial in re-inventing the infamous traditional rule of interrogating people in custody. This is recognised by the supreme court as only way that is fair in balancing an individual rights against the society ones .It might be relatively soon to dig deeper when we have the ability to appraise accurately the impact of such important holding.

5. POLITICAL AND SOCIAL RAMIFICATIONS

It is important to understand that constitutional rights should not become taken as a form of words by government officials. According to Lord Sankey words, he states that it is not admissible to do an excellent right by doing a bad wrong. By using improper and irregular means, it becomes quit impossible to obtain a proper result in administering justice.

Subtle encroachment to individual liberty should be avoided. This kind of approaches and minimal deviation from the set legal modes of providing justice need to be given keen attention and cut off at first sight.. Under no circumstance should there be a deviation from such noble heritage. The privilege provided by the Fifth Amendment is a Hallmark of American democracy that should not be broken and neglected on suspicion of guilt or culpability.

Examined on the aspect of social and political ramification of the ruling, the court’s new regime from the holding proves to be untrusted and in any case lacks compensation for its weaknesses in constitutional law. The court’s opinion in majority aims to offset minor pressures and the flaws that are characteristic of any police interrogation.

Rules serve no favour to the due process in preventing blatant coercion as they do little in bottlenecking the investigative policeman who has opted to use white lies from the very onset of the case fearing none of the legal consequences possible. The rules seem to be reliant on confessions despite being a possibility of them totally preventing such unjust way of prosecution.

The court blatantly exercises ignorance by believing that guidelines prevent or wholly deter an arm of law enforcement that for long periods as been viewed as paying the price for it.
Express waiver and demanding for termination of questioning by suspect at will deter and prevent full interrogation.

When the courts controversially rules and practices experiments in serious matters, they clearly show the flaws characterising normal policemen questioning capabilities as significantly exaggerated. The stringently confined due process of standard interrogation does not complement well with suspects. However, there will always be instances where a man will be arrested, houses searched without court orders and the indicted arraigned in court not forgetting those receiving jail sentences without proper due process being followed.

Society will always stand to pay the harsh and unforgiving price for law, order and upholding of human rights including the lack of peaceful interrogation which seems to be a dark side of the constitution.

Source: Essay UK - http://lecloschateldon.com/essays/law/essay-miranda-v-arizona/


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