The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself” (V Amendment U.S. Constitution). The Fifth Amendment provision created the basis of the Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona (1966). Under the adversarial system of justice practiced in America, a defendant may choose not to speak to interrogators and present evidence that may ultimately help establish the government’s case. The Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination allows the accused suspect to remain silent and be informed of his or her constitutional rights to silence and to an attorney when being interrogated by police in a custodial setting (Miranda v. Arizona).
A criminal suspect, regardless of whether charged in a federal or a state court, has no obligation to speak to interrogators and in doing so assist the prosecution in proving their case. However, police officers are usually well trained in prevailing over a suspect’s unwillingness to speak to police (Inbau et al., 2001). Therefore, a number of landmark judicial decisions have been made that call for law enforcement officials to present criminal suspects under custodial interrogation with some legal guidance. This includes not only guidance on the right to remain silent but also on the right to an attorney, who in case of the suspect who is indigent would be provided by the state, free of charge (Miranda v Arizona). The administration of these warnings must be presented in a way the person in custody can easily understand. Confessions can be allowed into evidence and considered when determining guilt only if they are proven voluntary (Kassin, 1997), and given freely and knowingly (White, 1998).
The traditional Miranda warning reads as follows: (1) You have the right to remain silent; (2) Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law; (3) You have the right to an attorney; (4) If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you free of charge. In addition to requiring these warnings, the court held that the state bears the burden of demonstrating that the suspect’s waiver of these constitutional rights was made “voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently” (Miranda vs Arizona). What his means is that at the time of the waiver the suspect must have understood the rights, the possible consequences of waiving them, and has given a waiver free of any external pressure by police. The creators of the Miranda rule primarily have been seeking to replace the subjective, case-by-case due process voluntariness approach with an objective standard that would be effective equally in all cases. Thus, the Miranda warnings have been required in all cases in which “questioning was initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in a significant way” (Miranda vs. Arizona).
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself (V Amendment U.S. Constitution) unless the person has made a free and voluntary decision to do so. Prior to Brown v Mississippi (1936), police frequently used pressure and also physical brutality, such as beating, hanging, and isolation in an attempt to extract a confession. According to Miranda v. Arizona (1966), the “third degree” methods and police violence and brutality were quite common in the police practice. The Miranda decision and its power as a procedural safeguard for suspects in custody have constantly been put into question. Critics of Miranda believe that confession and conviction rates have decreased due to the warning-and-waiver requirements, hence causing real criminals to be set free. On the other hand, proponents of Miranda argue that the actual declines are insignificant, that 4 out of 5 suspects waive their rights, and more importantly the benefits to the public have increased, as well as, individuals’ understanding of their constitutional rights (Leo, 1996).
Inbau, F. E., Reid, J. E., Buckley, J. P., & Jayne, B. C. (2001). Criminal interrogation and
confessions (4th ed.). Gaithersberg, MD: Aspen.
Kassin, S. M. (1997). The psychology of confession evidence. American Psychologist,
Leo, R. A. (1996). Miranda’s revenge: Police interrogation as a confidence game. Law and
Society Review, 30, 259-288.
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
White, W. S. (1998). What is an involuntary confession now? Rutgers Law Review, 50, 2001