The Miranda Warning
I have not updated this page since about 2005. Please forgive
the broken links.
In 1968, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled on
a case, Miranda v. Arizona
, and established what
is commonly known as the Miranda Rights
I have an entire page devoted to Miranda v. Arizona, Miranda Rights and related cases
The Supreme Court decision did not specify exactly how suspects
should be informed of their rights.
The full text of the decision
has many statements of what should happen, such as in section 1(d):
In the absence of other effective measures the following
procedures to safeguard the Fifth Amendment privilege must be observed:
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.
But there are many similar statements in the decision, each worded
slightly differently, and some are much longer than others. So,
where did the wording that we know come from?
Origin of the Familiar Miranda Warning
When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in 1968, Thomas
Lynch, the California Attorney General met with the distict attorneys
in California. They decided that they needed a concise, simple
warning that they could read to suspects. Lynch asked Harold
, then district attorney of Nevada County, CA, and
, then deputy attorney general, to write
something. They came up with the wording we all know:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and
will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to
talk to a lawyer and have him present with you while you are being
questioned. If you can not afford a lawyer, one will be provided
for you at government expense.
How did this wording become so widespread?
Berliner realized that every officer of the law would need to
know these words, and it just so happened that he had a background
in publishing. He had the words printed on thin, wallet-sized cards
and sold hundreds of thousands of them. Soon nearly every police district
was using this wording, and it has become known throughout
the world from American television shows and movies.
The words of Berliner and Maier have changed little over the years, except
to make the second sentence more gender-neutral. Some alternative forms
of the second sentence are:
- You have the right to
talk to a lawyer and have him or her present with you while you are being
questioned (written by Berliner in 1999).
- You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning.
You can see a sample card
on the CHIEF Supply website
, with English on one side and Spanish
on the other. Having a correct translation is important, otherwise statements
may be thrown out - see United States v. Perez-Lopez
For More Information
If you would like to read more about Harold Berliner, Doris Maier, and
the story behind the writing of the Miranda Warning, these three
articles are the source of this web page:
It is important to note that police are not legally required to
read you your rights when you are arrested. However, it is probably
in their best interest to do so, because then you can't claim that
you didn't know your rights, and try and get confessions and such
declared inadmissible as evidence and thrown out of court. Even if
the confession is declared inadmissible, sometimes it can be used
to impair the defendant's credibility, and sometimes evidence found
from information in the confession can still be used.
allowed to ask you questions to establish your identity (name,
address, date of birth, social security number) without reading you
your rights first. However, you may or may not be required to answer
if there is no reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing - see my page
Miranda v. Arizona, Miranda Rights and related cases.
There is also a band called Miranda Warning