Constitution Center Blog

It was 50 years ago today that the phrase “Miranda warning” was born, after the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark case about the Fifth Amendment.

ernestomirandaThe “Miranda” in the Miranda warning was Ernesto Miranda. He was arrested in March 1963 in Phoenix and confessed while in police custody to kidnapping and rape charges. His lawyers sought to overturn his conviction after they learned during a cross-examination that Miranda wasn’t told he had the right to a lawyer and had the right to remain silent. (Miranda had signed a confession that acknowledged that he understood his legal rights.)

The Supreme Court overturned Miranda’s conviction on June 13, 1966, in its ruling for Miranda v. Arizona, which established guidelines for how detained suspects are informed of their constitutional rights.

The decision consolidated three other cases that dealt with related issues: California v. Stewart, Vignera v. New York, and Westover v. United States.

In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren said that “it is not admissible to do a great right by doing a little wrong. … It is not sufficient to do justice by obtaining a proper result by irregular or improper means.”

The syllabus for the case includes one of the best-known sentences in American culture.

“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 lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him,” it says.

Justices John Marshall Harlan II and Byron White issued dissents[…]

Used with Permission of the National Constitution Center