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The Miranda warning is given by police officers in the United States to suspects whom they have arrested and intend to question. The Miranda warnings were mandated by the 1966 United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Miranda v. Arizona. They are a means of protecting a criminal suspect's Fifth Amendment right not to be subjected to coerced self-incrimination (see right to silence). This principle of law, though under different names, has been adopted in some other jurisdictions.
Miranda v. Arizona
Main article: Miranda v. Arizona
In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested for robbery, kidnapping, and rape. He was interrogated by police and confessed. At trial, prosecutors offered only his confession as evidence and he was convicted. The Supreme Court ruled (Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)) that Miranda was intimidated by the interrogation, and that he did not understand his right to not incriminate himself, nor his right to have counsel. On this basis, they overturned his conviction. Miranda was later convicted in a new trial, with witnesses testifying against him, and other evidence presented. He served 11 years.
The Supreme Court did not specify the exact wording to be used when informing a suspect of his or her rights. However, they did set down a set of guidelines which must be followed. The ruling states:
- "...The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a attorney and to have that attorney present during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him."
As a result, the American English vocabulary has acquired a new verb, "to Mirandize", meaning to read to a suspect his or her Miranda rights (when that suspect is taken into custody for the purpose of interrogation).
Typical Miranda warning
Though every U.S. jurisdiction has its own regulations regarding what, precisely, must be said to a person when they are arrested, the typical warning is as follows:
- You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you at no cost.
The courts have since ruled that the warning must be "meaningful", so it is usually required that the suspect be asked if he understands his rights. Sometimes, firm answers of "yes" are required—an arrestee's silence is not a waiver. Evidence has been ruled inadmissible because of an arrestee's poor knowledge of English and the failure of arresting officers to provide the warning in the arrestee's language. The right of a juvenile to remain silent without his or her parent or guardian present is also extended in some jurisdictions.
Indiana and a few other states add the sentence, "We have no way of giving you a lawyer, but one will be appointed for you, if you wish, if and when you go to court." Even though this sentence can be somewhat ambiguous to some hapless laypersons---who can, and who have, interpreted it to mean that "you will not get a lawyer until you confess and are arraigned in court"---the U.S. Supreme Court has approved of it as an accurate description of the procedure in those states. Duckworth v. Eagan, 492 U.S. 195 (1989).
Confusion regarding the Miranda warning
Due to the prevalence of American television programs and motion pictures in which the police characters are constantly reading a suspect his or her rights, it has become an expected element of arrest procedure. However, police are only required to warn an individual whom they intend to subject to custodial interrogation at the police station. Arrests can occur without questioning and without the Miranda warning --- although if the police do change their mind and decide to interrogate the suspect, the warning must be given then. Furthermore, if public safety warrants such action, the police may ask questions prior to a reading of the Miranda warning, and the evidence thus obtained can sometimes still be used against the defendant.
Equivalent rights in other countries
Most authoritarian countries neither acknowledge nor allow a right to remain silent, nor a right to legal counsel.
In France, any person brought in police custody (garde à vue) must be informed of the maximal duration of the custody, and a number of rights, in a language that this person understands. Among these rights are: the possibility of warning a relative or employer of the custody, that of asking to be examined by a physician, that of discussing the case with an attorney. Witnesses against which there exist indices or that are cited as suspects cannot be heard under oath (and thus do not risk prosecution for perjury), must be assisted by an attorney, and must be informed of these rights when heard by the judiciary. Suspects (any person against which exist plausible causes of suspicion) must be informed of their right to remain silent, to make statements, or to answer questions. In all cases, an attorney can be designated by the head of the bar if necessary.
- You have the right to remain silent, but anything you do say will be taken down and may be used in evidence against you.
was used. The Criminal Justice Act 1994 amended (some say abolished) the right to silence by allowing inferences to be drawn in cases such as when a suspect refuses to explain something, and then later produces an explanation. The new caution is
- You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something that you later rely on in court. Anything you say may be given in evidence.
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