“They didn’t read me my [Miranda] rights.” Sometimes Miranda is named; sometimes it’s not. The Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona is so ingrained in the popular mind many people can actually name it because our population has heard the mantra countless times. You can likely recite it better than almost any other legal concept. Give it a try with this head start: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say…”
It’s probably not what you think it is. You probably think of it as a shield for the guilty because that’s what you’ve been told repeatedly, but maybe not in those words.
Miranda has been popularized by fiction perpetuated by television and movies. For over 50 years, popular entertainment has shown hard-core criminals get away with the most gruesome crimes imaginable because the guilty “got off on a technicality”. Failure to read Miranda rights is the frequent whipping boy of such dramas. The case was decided in 1966, and it captured the imagination of writers.
Watching the guilty go free offends our innate sense of justice. We desperately want wrongs righted. Religions the world over address the topic because it is a universal concept important to all human interactivity. It’s an age-old concern which reaches our core sense of right and wrong.
We want good behavior encouraged and rewarded and bad behavior discouraged and punished. When we can see this seemingly reversed in real life, we are disgusted when bad behavior incurs no righteous, proportionate response. Simplistic retributive justice concepts like this don’t make real sense on their own. In a legal context, much more also needs to be considered.
Protecting people from mistaken or malicious accusation and unjust punishment isn’t as universally part of people’s moral compasses. We haven’t reached a thorough level of disgust for innocent people being punished for things they didn’t do, but we should. It happens much more than we like to think.
The real reason Miranda is important is to prevent and disarm overreaching police behavior. Miranda doesn’t come into play in your case at all unless the police are interrogating you, and most of what happens during a routine DWI arrest is not considered by courts as interrogation.
People who are in police custody are especially vulnerable. Physical and psychological pressures bear down on people when they feel they have no way out of their situation. They do and say things they wouldn’t otherwise do. In fact, they will go out of their way to admit virtually anything the cops want to hear.
Pollyanna, ignorant beliefs like “innocent people don’t confess to things they didn’t do” and only physical torture could cause people to lie about their guilt. These concepts have been soundly refuted by researchers, yet people cling to unfounded beliefs and prefer ignorance to the truth. Innocent people get railroaded much more often than we want to believe. into punishment for crimes they didn’t commit isn’t nearly as popular a topic.
If you are discussing your case with your lawyer, and you bring up this topic, be prepared to hear it has no bearing on your particular case. Your lawyer should ask about it, if it is a meaningful issue for your case.