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Miranda Rights and National Police Week

The following information relies on the recollections and opinions of a retired local jurisdiction law enforcement officer.

When Betty wrote her “Legalese” post on terms from legal dictionaries, I mentioned that “mirandize” was one of my favorites. My dad had started his law enforcement career just a few years prior to the Supreme Court’s Miranda decision on June 13, 1966, so I asked him for his memories of it when I was studying the decision in school. Betty mentioned that his stories would make a good blog post.  And, as this is National Police Week, I am following up with her suggestion.

My father is retired from a large local jurisdiction police force. His agency provides continuing professional education, by publishing newsletters, arranging FBI Academy law enforcement training, and coordinating numerous other conferences and seminars. His agency recognized that an educated police force would provide better service to the community. For some time prior to the Miranda decision, his agency’s criminal law courses taught all new recruits that they were required by the agency to inform all persons arrested that they had the right to remain silent and that anything they said could be used against them in a court of law.  These were two of the three standard phrases included in the current Miranda rights. The key addition of the Miranda decision was the requirement that suspects be informed of their right to an attorney, which the state will provide if they cannot afford to pay. This last point was an argument of Ernesto Miranda‘s counsel to the Supreme Court.

After Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), every police officer in my dad’s agency was issued wallet-sized cards with Miranda rights printed on them.

As you might expect, the public didn’t always understand the provisions of Miranda.  My dad recalls an arrest when a DWI suspect was informed of his rights and invoked them by declining to talk to officers and called his attorney on the police station public pay phone. The suspect then loudly confessed to his attorney in the presence of the surrounding officers that he was intoxicated, and that he had been intoxicated at the moment he was operating his vehicle. My dad’s colleagues never questioned the man.  They took notes of his phone call and presented them as evidence in court. The suspect and his counsel attempted to use Miranda, and the judge convicted the man of DWI.

As time passed, the public began to be more aware of their Miranda rights and the recitation of them is regularly depicted in police procedurals both on screen and in print fiction. You can buy those wallet-sized cards online now, too.

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial during National Police Week, 2015. (Photo provided by author.)

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial during National Police Week, 2015. (Photo provided by author.)

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