Miranda Rights came from the Supreme Court, not the minds of "Law & Order" writers
A 1966 Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona, highlights their importance
In the United States, the Constitution is interpreted by nine separate, yet equally important, members of the Supreme Court. This is one of their stories.
The Supreme Court should get writing credit on every episode of “Law & Order.” After all, it was a 1966 Supreme Court decision that articulated the Miranda Rights, which make up part of almost every “Law & Order” episode. They require law enforcement, both real and fictional, to inform suspects prior to interrogation of their rights to remain silent and to an attorney.
The case began in Arizona three years earlier, when Ernesto Miranda was charged with rape and kidnapping. Miranda gave a confession without being informed of the rights that now bear his name. That confession led to a conviction that carried a potential for decades of jail time.
Miranda appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction. The case was then taken to the Supreme Court in 1966. At the time, the Court was dealing with three other similar cases and combined them under the Miranda v. Arizona name.
At issue were the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. The Fifth reads, in part, that no one “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” The Sixth Amendment ensures detainees, in part, “the assistance of counsel for his defense.”
“I believe that the record indicates that at no time during the interrogation, and prior to his confession, his oral confession, was he advised either of his rights to remain silent, or his right to counsel,” John Flynn told the court on Miranda’s behalf.
Gary Nelson, arguing for Arizona, made the argument that not everyone needs to be warned of their rights to silence or an attorney.
“My position basically is, concerning the warning, is that each case presents a factual situation in which the court would have to determine or a court or a judge or prosecutor at some level would have to make a determination as to whether or not a defendant, because of the circumstances surrounding his confession, was denied a specific right, whether it be right to counsel, the right to not be compelled to testify against himself,” Nelson said.
That could probably be taken to mean that anyone who has binge-watched an “SVU” marathon wouldn’t need to be told their rights prior to interrogation because they were already familiar with them.
The court narrowly sided 5-4 with Miranda, whose conviction was overturned. He was later retried without the confession and convicted again.
“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,” the court’s opinion read in part. It goes on to say that the accused must know they are entitled to lawyers and that “if he cannot afford one, a lawyer will be provided for him prior to any interrogation.”