Friday, June 14, 2013

You Have the Right


So, I was doing my usual browse through the This Day in History site when I came upon something that definitely caught my eye:  today is the anniversary of the landmark Miranda ruling. Yep, on this date back in 1966, the Supreme Court handed down Miranda v. Arizona, the decision that led to criminals (alleged and otherwise) being advised of their Constitutional rights when they are taken into custody.   (To be clear, June 13 is the day, since it’s going to be “tomorrow” before this posts!)

Miranda 6-13-13

  I’m sure we’ve all heard this spiel so many times on television and in the movies that we can recite it ourselves, even without any sort of personal experience with the process.  It’s so commonplace that it’s kind of hard to imagine that there was a time when the police could just arrest you for whatever reason and then just hang onto you until they got their confession.  Who knew you had an actual right to keep your mouth shut?  Sure, maybe anybody (including Mr. Miranda) should have had sense enough to figure it out, but who would’ve thought it was an actual law?                                                Image courtesy of sattva at

My classes this summer are Juvenile Law and Criminal Law, and in both, we’ve been talking about the rights and responsibilities contained within our legal processes.  Today in particular we were talking about search and seizure laws and how they come into play in different circumstances.  I wish I’d known a few hours ago about today’s momentous anniversary; I bet I could’ve scored some extra credit.  Or at least some brownie points.

Oh, also, you might not know (I didn’t understand this for many years of my life) that when the USSC takes on a case, it’s rarely just one case.  They often elect to hear several cases at once that rest on the same general legal issue.  That’s how it was in this case, too.  I’m not sure how they choose how the cases are listed, order of filing would be my guess.  Anyway, the point is, along with Miranda, the USSC also heard arguments on California v. Stewart, Vignera v. New York, and Westover v. United States.  Just imagine, rather than your Miranda rights, you could be hearing the “Vignera”  spiel rattled off at every arrest.  Doesn’t roll off the tongue quite the same way, does it?

So happy anniversary, Miranda; here’s to 47 years of due process.