Due process means that laws must be applied fairly and equally to everyone. This concept is so important and fundamental that it’s noted explicitly in our Constitution, which states that the government shall not deprive anyone of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…” The 5th Amendment protects people from actions of the federal government, and the 14th protects them from actions by state and local governments.
A summary of some of these rights in modern times is required to be provided to individuals at the moment of arrest. Most Americans are familiar with the beginning phrase or two of our Miranda Warning – “You have the right to remain silent …”, but most people aren’t familiar with how this practice came into existence.
A defendant’s rights not being properly protected led to rights being explicitly stated
Miranda vs. Arizona was a Supreme Court case from 1965 that ruled against the state of Arizona, in which Ernesto Miranda, who was earlier convicted of rape, had this ruling overturned because the police extracted a confession from the defendant without providing him with information about his constitutional right to have an attorney present.
While Miranda was later convicted of the same charge during a retrial at which a witness provided evidence, the Supreme Court finding led police forces around the country to introduce procedures in which the well known statement was made standardized in the arrest process.
A common misconception is that failure to read an arrestee their Miranda warning will lead to charges being dropped. This is absolutely not true. The Miranda warning is associated with the process of getting information from an arrestee and that information being used in their trial. A defense lawyer for a person who failed to have their Miranda warning read may argue vigorously for the removal of subsequent information provided by the defendant during the trial, but any additional evidence or witness testimony can be used to convict regardless of the status of the Miranda warning.
Failure to be read your Miranda Warning DOES NOT lead to charges being dismissed
It should also be remembered that even without an arrest taking place, police are still able to stop individuals and ask questions. Of course, you have the right to refuse to answer such questions. This right does not extend to a refusal to provide things like a drivers license, since the agreement entered into between the individual and the state when issued included the promise to provide it upon request.
For individuals under arrest that speak only a language other than English, even the correct reading of the Miranda warning is not useful, and while specific policies may vary from place to place, a translation service or interpreter will normally be used to provide the warning, prior to any questions being asked.
Learn more about what the Miranda Warning means for your rights.