Miranda v. Arizona

A man being taken into custody by a police officer
Aspen Colorado Police Officer Takes a Suspect into Custody. Chris Hondros / Getty Images

Miranda v. Arizona was a significant Supreme Court case that ruled that a defendant's statements to authorities are inadmissible in court unless the defendant has been informed of their right to have an attorney present during questioning and an understanding that anything they say will be held against them. In addition, for a statement to be admissible, the individual must understand their rights and waive them voluntarily.

Fast Facts: Miranda v. Arizona

  • Case Argued: Feb 28–March 2, 1966
  • Decision Issued: Jun 13, 1966
  • Petitioner: Ernesto Miranda, a suspect who was arrested and brought to the Phoenix, Arizona, police station for questioning
  • Respondent: State of Arizona
  • Key Question: Does the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination extend to the police interrogation of a suspect?
  • Majority Decision: Justices Warren, Black, Douglas, Brennan, Fortas
  • Dissenting: Justices Harlan, Stewart, White, Clark
  • Ruling: The Supreme Court ruled that a defendant's statements to authorities are inadmissible in court unless he has been informed of his right to have an attorney present during questioning and an understanding that anything he says will be held against him in a court of law.

Facts of Miranda v. Arizona

On March 2, 1963, Patricia McGee (not her real name) was kidnapped and raped while walking home after work in Phoenix, Arizona. She accused Ernesto Miranda of the crime after picking him out of a lineup. He was arrested and taken to an interrogation room where after three hours he signed a written confession to the crimes. The paper on which he wrote his confession stated that the information was given voluntarily and that he understood his rights. However, no specific rights were listed on the paper.

Miranda was found guilty in an Arizona court based largely on the written confession. He was sentenced to 20 to 30 years for both crimes to be served concurrently. However, his attorney felt that his confession should not be admissible due to the fact that he was not warned of his right to have an attorney represent him or that his statement could be used against him. Therefore, he appealed the case for Miranda. The Arizona State Supreme Court did not agree that the confession had been coerced, and therefore upheld the conviction. From there, his attorneys, with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Decision

The Supreme Court actually decided four different cases that all had similar circumstances when they ruled on Miranda. Under Chief Justice Earl Warren, the court sided with Miranda in a 5-4 vote. At first, the attorneys for Miranda attempted to argue that his rights had been violated as he had not been given an attorney during the confession, citing the Sixth Amendment. However, the Court focused on the rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment including that of protection against self-incrimination.

The majority opinion written by Warren stated that "without proper safeguards, the process of in-custody interrogation of persons suspected or accused of crime contains inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual’s will to resist and to compel him to speak where he would otherwise do so freely." Miranda was not released from prison, however, because he had also been convicted of robbery which was not affected by the decision. He was retried for the crimes of rape and kidnapping without the written evidence and found guilty a second time.

The Significance of Miranda v. Arizona

The Supreme Court decision in Mapp v. Ohio was quite controversial. Opponents argued that advising criminals of their rights would hamper police investigations and cause more criminals to walk free. In fact, Congress passed a law in 1968 that provided the ability for courts to examine confessions on a case-by-case basis to decide whether they should be allowed. The main result of Miranda v. Arizona was the creation of the "Miranda Rights." These were listed in the majority opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren:

"[A suspect] must be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires."

Interesting Facts

  • Ernesto Miranda was released from prison after serving only eight years of his sentence.
  • Miranda was convicted a second time based on the testimony of his common-law wife to whom he confessed the crimes. He had told her that he would be willing to marry Patricia McGee if she would drop the charges against him.
  • Miranda would later sell autographed cards bearing the "Miranda Rights" for $1.50 each.
  • Miranda died from a knife wound in a barroom fight. The person who was arrested for his killing was read the "Miranda Rights."


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Your Citation
Kelly, Martin. "Miranda v. Arizona." ThoughtCo, Sep. 7, 2021, thoughtco.com/miranda-v-arizona-104966. Kelly, Martin. (2021, September 7). Miranda v. Arizona. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/miranda-v-arizona-104966 Kelly, Martin. "Miranda v. Arizona." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/miranda-v-arizona-104966 (accessed June 8, 2023).