The Miranda Ruling
In March 18, 1963, police arrested Ernesto Miranda at his home in Phoenix, Arizona for kidnapping and raping 18-year old Patty McGee. He was brought to the police station where he was identified by his victim. The immigrant from Mexico, who had previous criminal record, underwent a two-hour interrogation. After rigorous questioning, the 23-year old Miranda admitted to the crime and signed a handwritten confession. However, in the paper preceding his statement was a type written paragraph saying that his confession was voluntary, that there was no threat, and that he has full knowledge of his legal rights. Prosecutors presented Miranda’s confession as evidence during the trial where he was convicted on both charges and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. His lawyer Alvin Moore appealed the case to the Supreme Court. In 1966, the Supreme Court overturned the decision with a 5-4 vote stating that the confession was inadmissible because the accused was not in anyway informed of his rights nor his privilege against self-incrimination was effectively protected. As a result, police and prosecutors tried other ways to convict Miranda. They used the testimony of Miranda’s wife Twila Hoffman who had first hand knowledge of the crimes because she was told about it by the accused himself. Miranda was sentenced to prison and got paroled in 1972. Two years later, he was stabbed to death in a bar. No one was ever charged of the murder.
The Miranda v. Arizona verdict became a landmark decision in the field of criminal procedure. It became very controversial and opposed by many sectors especially by the law enforcement community. The Miranda ruling quickly became one of the most significant building blocks of our present-day system of criminal justice. Under Miranda, suspects who are subject to questioning must be told of their right to remain silent and of their right to an attorney, before questioning can begin. (Schmalleger, 2005, ¶3). With this judgment, the Supreme Court formulated new rules for law enforcement personnel after reviewing police questioning procedures. This sent a message to law enforcement agencies that the court was aware of its interrogation tactics and would not allow abuses. In addition, the court emphasized the need to respect the Fifth Amendment of the United States constitution, which states “that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself” and that of the Sixth Amendment where “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to have the assistance of counsel for his defense”. The controversial verdict has set specific rights for criminal suspects. Prior to the Miranda ruling, police officers were unaware that they have violated the rights of suspects when questioning them without the presence of an attorney. In his Majority Opinion, then Chief Justice Earl Warren summarized the decision as follows:
The warning of the right to remain silent must be accompanied by the explanation that anything said can and will be used against the individual in court. This warning is needed in order to make him aware not only of the privilege, but also of the consequences of forgoing it.
That an individual held for interrogation must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation under the system for protecting the privilege we delineate today.
That if an individual indicates that he wishes the assistance of counsel before any interrogation occurs, the authorities cannot rationally ignore or deny his request on the basis that the individual does not have or cannot afford a retained attorney. The privilege against self-incrimination secured by the Constitution applies to all individuals. The need for counsel in order to protect the privilege exists for the indigent as well as the affluent. (LandmarkCases, 2000, p. 13).
For fear that the Miranda Rights would allow guilty suspects to go free and harm innocent lives, the U.S. Congress in 1968 passed legislation to allow voluntary confessions in federal cases. The law was not enforced, which seemed to annul the ruling. Many believed that congress has no authority to contravene the Miranda decision. Later the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals disputed Miranda saying that the rights are not protected by the constitution and could be changed by legislative actions. However, in Dickerson v. U.S. of June 26, 2000, the Supreme Court upheld Miranda with a 7-2 vote declaring that the 1966 ruling was a constitutional rule. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist noted that Congress cannot supersede the decision legislatively.
The Impact on Law Enforcement
This issue brought critical changes in criminal procedures mandating every police officer in the country to implement the Miranda warnings. In carrying out custodial interrogation, police are now required to inform the rights of criminal suspects: that they have the right to remain silent, anything they say can and will be used against them, that they have the right to an attorney and if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided free of charge. Furthermore the decision also required that police obtain a “waiver of rights” from a suspect — that is, an affirmative agreement from the suspect that he would like to talk to police. Also, if at any time the suspect indicated a wish to stop talking or to see a lawyer, police had to stop questioning immediately. Failure to deliver the warnings, obtain the waiver, or cut off questioning when requested automatically bars the use at trial of statements obtained from the suspect. (Cassell & Markman, 1995, ¶4). A pre-printed Miranda waiver forms are given by police stations to suspects for them to sign after hearing of their rights. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that Miranda merely safeguards constitutional rights and not a criminal procedure. For most law enforcement agencies, the adoption of the Miranda rule has complicated police procedures in investigating crimes. Interrogation is one way police can obtain evidence wherein scholars noted that between 42 and 55 percent of suspects would confess to a crime. However, more often the tactics used lead to abuse or coercion resulting in many false testimonies. Researchers discovered that about 65 to 300 false confessions occur in the United States. The Miranda rule is said to ensure lawful arrests and make questioning practices legal.
The Miranda rule greatly affected law enforcement in different ways: first, Miranda has exercised a civilizing influence on police interrogation behavior, and in so doing has professionalized police practices; second, Miranda has transformed the culture and discourse of police detecting; third, Miranda has increased popular awareness of constitutional rights, and; fourth, Miranda has inspired police to develop more specialized, more sophisticated and seemingly more effective interrogation techniques with which to elicit inculpatory statements. (Leo, 1996, ¶89). In the past, interrogation techniques were physical and forceful using the so called “third degree” that constitutes deprivation of food and water, bright lights, physical discomfort and long isolation. Confessions that came out from this method were usually acceptable in court as long as the suspect signed a waiver citing his testimony was voluntary. There have been a series of crackdown on this practice. The Miranda rule was the latest measure to guard suspects from such technique. Today, a well-crafted interrogation policy is followed to guarantee compliance with relevant legal principles.
Police apply basic psychological techniques or manipulation like the “bad cop good cop” routine. There is the tendency that suspects will trust someone who pretends to be on their side and looking after them. Another is the scare tactic where investigators would tell suspects the crimes they committed and the horrible punishment they could face if convicted. Oftentimes, fear makes people nervous and talk spontaneously. What’s more, the designs of interrogation room in police departments are intended to exploit the discomfort of suspects as well as his sense of powerlessness. As a result of Miranda, police stations use videos and audios to document arrests and interrogations so that the court could determine if the confessions are legitimate or coerced. Recordings prevent disputes about officers’ conduct, the treatment of suspects and statements they made. (Sullivan, 2004, p. 6). Videotaping gives police greater credibility and legitimacy in their work. Majority of law enforcement personnel reported improvements in their interrogation techniques with the use of videos, a practice now required by law. Finally, as a result of the Miranda decision, a manual for Criminal Interrogation and Confessions was drafted by polygraph analyst John Reid, a question and answer system that seek to uncover weaknesses among suspects to extract a confession. The manual, a widely used interrogation method in the country, contains nine steps of psychological manipulation. The nine steps include confrontation, theme development, stopping denials, overcoming objections, getting the suspect’s attention, the suspect losing resolve, alternatives, bringing the suspect into conversation, and the confession.
Harmful or Helpful
In the context of crime prevention and apprehending criminals, the Miranda ruling causes adverse effects and weakens law enforcement agencies. In the process of protecting the rights of the suspects, police may loose valuable information that may be available at that instant during arrest. Because of the warnings, suspects may have time to reinvent their statements or come up with alibis. I believe that Miranda undermines police ability to apprehend criminals. Various studies revealed that the impact of Miranda reduces confession opportunities during interrogation. A lost confession occurs in approximately one of every six, or 16 percent, of all crimes in the country. The Federal Bureau of Investigation noted that some 28,000 cases of violent crimes and 79,000 cases of property crimes are lost each year due to the Miranda ruling. In its report entitled Handcuffing the Cops: Miranda’s Harmful Effects on Law Enforcement, the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) disclosed the following findings:
? Between 8,000 and 36,000 more robberies would have been solved in 1995 in the absence of the Miranda ruling.
? Between 17,000 and 82,000 more burglaries, between 6,000 and 163,000 more larcenies and between 23,000 and 78,000 more vehicle thefts would have been solved.
? Following the decision, the rates of violent crimes solved by police fell dramatically, from 60 percent or more to about 45 percent, where they have remained.
? The rates of property crimes solved by police also dropped.
? Given that a confession is needed to get a conviction in about one of every four cases, a rough estimate is that there are 3.8 percent fewer convictions every year because of Miranda.
? This means that each year there are 28,000 fewer convictions for violent crimes, 79,000 fewer for property crimes and 500,000 fewer for other crimes. (Cassell, 1998, Executive Summary).
In almost all empirical studies relating to the impact of Miranda, resulting data show a decline in arrests and convictions. This ruling is largely responsible for lessening the effectiveness of police functions particularly in identifying accomplices, clearing crimes, and recovering stolen properties. Miranda provides too much protection to the criminals. The analysis of Miranda tends to support the conclusion that this surprising Supreme Court decision seriously hampered police investigation techniques…that by hampering police investigations, the Supreme Court may have increased total crime rates by 11% with its Miranda ruling. (Rubin, Atkins, 1999, p. 22).
Terrorism is a serious crime that needs extra measures. In this country there is too much protection given to criminal suspects that limits police work. However, that is how American justice system works balancing civil liberties and law enforcement. The government must strengthen its intelligence network and capabilities because information is the best weapon in fighting terrorism. I believe that the Miranda rule should be suspended especially when the situation poses immediate danger to the public. Getting the right information quick is the key to foil future terrorist attacks. The goal here is prevention and the government has the primary obligation to protect its citizens. Under this circumstance, the Supreme Court has upheld the interrogation of suspects without reading his Miranda rights. In addition, any answer given by the suspects to authorities will not only be used to avert threats but as evidence for their prosecution.
In preventing imminent terror attacks, law professors John Parry and Welsh White of the University of Pittsburgh, wrote that police would be allowed to use technology to probe the suspect’s consciousness, even if the suspect objects. They would also be allowed to use sophisticated psychologically-oriented interrogation techniques in order to persuade the suspect that it is in his interest to disclose information. Tactics designed to induce the suspect’s cooperation, such as promises that might otherwise be prohibited, should thus be permitted if the agents are seeking to obtain vital information. (Parry & White, 2001, ¶4). In this research, we see clearly that without Miranda many crimes could have been solved. While in some other countries torture is acceptable, I do not condone it and other forms of physical abuse. In desperate times, this option is widely considered as a last resort. In doing so, however, we kill the fundamental principles on which this country was founded: that all people are created equal. Preserving our constitutional rights separates us from our enemies. Even though the Miranda ruling is an obstacle to solving crimes, police should not be allowed to practice unlawful methods of questioning. Overall, Miranda does little in crime prevention but only complicates police investigation and helps suspects escape the law.
Schmalleger, F. Ph.D. (2005). Miranda Revisited. Criminal Justice Central. Justice Research Association. Retrieved January 15, 2006, from http://www.cjcentral.com/miranda/
LandmarkCases. (2000). Miranda v. Arizona 1966. Street Law, Inc. and the Supreme Court Historical Society. Retrieved January 15, 2006, from http://www.landmarkcases.org/miranda/pdf/miranda_v_arizona.pdf
Cassell, P. & Markman, S. J. (1995). Miranda’s hidden costs – Miranda rights and the Criminal Justice System. National Review, Dec 25, 1995. Retrieved January 15, 206, from http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_n24_v47/ai_17955346/pg_1
Leo, R. A. (1996). The Impact of Miranda Revisited. Journal of Criminal Law ; Criminology, Vol. 86, Issue 3. Northwestern School of Law. Retrieved January 15, 2006, from http://www.boardbot.com/boards/NCP/1.html
Sullivan, T. P. (2004). Police Experiences with Recording Custodial Interrogations. A Special Report. Northwestern University School of Law, Center on Wrongful Convictions. No.1, Summer 2004. Retrieved January, 15, 2006, from http://www.innocenceproject.org/docs/Police_Experiences_Recording_Interrogations.pdf
Cassell, P. G. (1998). Handcuffing the Cops: Miranda’s Harmful Effects on Law Enforcement. National Center for Policy Analysis. NCPA Policy Report No. 218, August 1998. ISBN #1-56808-040-9
Rubin, P. ; Atkins, R. A. (1999). Effects of Criminal Procedure on Crime Rates: Mapping Out the Consequences of the Exclusionary Rule. Independent Institute Working Paper #9. Retrieved January 15, 2006, from http://www.independent.org/pdf/working_papers/09_effects.pdf
Parry, J. ; White, W. (2001). Interrogating a Suspected Terrorist. Terrorism Law ; Policy. Jurist: Legal News ; Research. University of Pittsburgh, School of Law. Retrieved January 15, 2006, from http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/terrorism/terrorismparry.htm