A Brief History
On March 13, 1963, a career criminal was taken into the custody of history!
Digging deeper, we find Ernesto Miranda, born March 9, 1941 in Mesa, Arizona beginning a (short) life of crime by the 8th grade.
Arrested for numerous crimes such as burglary, robbery, auto theft, and sex offenses, Miranda was in and out of juvenile and then adult confinement. At age 22 he had kidnapped and raped a 17 year old girl when police spotted him driving a car matching the suspect car’s description.
Upon his arrest, police interrogated Miranda and received a written confession on paper headed with a statement asserting that the person making the statement is aware of his rights and that the statement can and will be used against him, voluntarily and not under duress. His voice was identified by the victim, and Miranda himself told police “that’s the girl” when he saw the victim at the police station.
Miranda was convicted of the rape and kidnapping, but had his conviction overturned by the US Supreme Court for violations of his right to remain silent and his right to have an attorney present during questioning (5th and 6th Amendments to the Constitution).
With this decision immediately becoming the law of the land, Miranda Warning cards were printed and passed out to police officers all over the country, creating the familiar speech police recite at most arrests. One aspect of this is that many people mistakenly believe they must be let go if they were not read their rights, when in fact all it means is that any statement made without the warning cannot be used against them. Many arrests and prosecutions do not rely on suspects confessions at all an failure to “read them their rights” can have no effect on the case!
Another misunderstanding is having an attorney appointed for a suspect. Many arrestees demand their “free” attorney, when in fact, citizens are required to provide their own attorney at their own expense, unless the defendant is indigent! Indigent means the accused has no money, no job, and no collateral to put up against attorney fees. Otherwise, you have to pay the lawyer yourself!
Miranda was convicted at his retrial without his confession, and was sentenced to 20-30 years in jail. Paroled in 1972 Miranda spent the next 4 years in trouble for traffic offenses and a gun violation, and did an additional year in jail for parole violations. When he was out of jail, he made some money selling autographed Miranda Warning cards for $1.50!
Miranda’s life came to a violent end in 1976 when he was fatally stabbed by a Mexican in Phoenix, who promptly vamoosed the state! Miranda’s legacy lives on in the warning given to arrested persons, some of whom have had convictions overturned just by the police saying their statement “may be used against you” instead of “will be used against you” or some equally frivolous minor variation.
Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think? Please let us know in the comments section below this article. And please remember, your statement can and will be used against you!
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For more information, please see…
Lanier, Linsey. Forever Mine: Book III (A Miranda’s Rights Mystery 3). Felicity Books, 2014.
Stuart, Gary L. Miranda: The Story of America s Right to Remain Silent. University of Arizona Press, 2004.
Yes, we know the first source is a stretch, but the woman on the cover is pretty, so…