“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 an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
These sentences, forever immortalized in a variety of media, are what is known as the Miranda Rights, or Miranda Warnings. Before directly questioning a detainee, a police officer must state these phrases (as they are) to the arrested. Miranda Rights originated in the United States of America through the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of their Constitution; privilege against self-incrimination and the right to counsel respectively, and was made a mandatory part of custodial interrogation while making an arrest, by the Supreme Court’s decision Miranda v. Arizona.
Upon reading these statements, one might wonder, why they have become as imperative as they are; why indeed, has the right to remain silent become such a key part of deciding whether or not the information received during an interrogation is admissible in the court or not? One thing to remember is that the police (as an institution) are inherently motivated to obtain incriminating information from those they arrest; arrest is made based on the assumption that the detained has engaged in some unlawful behavior. As a result, if people waive these rights, either because they do not deem them important or if they have not been informed about the rights at all, any interrogation they submit without an attorney present will be admissible in court.
The issue arises when police begin to utilize various interrogation practices, that are less than ethical, to obtain information from the accused. The typical citizen, acting as a person of interest, is not safe from falling for these rather subtle techniques and may unintentionally provide incriminating evidence that could be used against them. Miranda Rights exist to make sure that the detained if they choose, do not unintentionally incriminate themselves without an attorney present to mediate the interaction.
It has thus been established that Miranda Rights form an essential part of protecting constitutionally guaranteed privileges, ensuring a fair trial, and restraining police power to a reasonable degree. Extrapolating from these facts, two questions arise; if these are indeed so important, do they have international counterparts, and what are the associated reasons and consequences of not developing the same?
In terms of modern international criminal proceedings, Miranda's contemporaries have been implemented. For example, international courts like the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone, go to great lengths to ensure that they provide adequate evidence that their proceedings reflect respect for the human rights of those involved throughout the trial proceedings by refusing to admit improperly obtained statements.
The impact of the decision in Miranda v. Arizona on the international legal community is also worth highlighting. The opinion laid down is often considered when courts around the world determine whether or not a suspect’s interrogation introduced during criminal proceedings is fair and admissible as evidence against the defendant. In the case of McGowan v. B., the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom did cite the Miranda decision as “the main source of comparative jurisprudence on the issue of waiver by a suspect of the right of access to a lawyer while being questioned by the police." Such affirmation showcases the international impact of the Miranda decision on the rest of the world.
With regards to equivalent statutory or legislative law, one only needs to look at the Philippines, where the Philippine National Police Operational Procedures, states that the arresting officer must inform the person arrested, detained, or under custodial investigations, of their rights under the Miranda Doctrine. The doctrine also enjoys legislative enforcement in several other jurisdictions like Russia, Spain, Italy, Canada, and France, all have codified rights that were at least in part influenced by the Miranda Rights. In the European Union, Directive 2012/13/EU on the Right to Information in Criminal Proceedings, explicitly establishes common minimum standards on the rights of suspects or accused, requiring member states to provide information orally or in clear writing to the detained regarding the;
access to a lawyer
conditions for obtaining free legal advice
nature of the accusation
right to remain silence
However, one must note that despite clear inspiration, many jurisdictions still utilize ambiguous and imprecise limits on police cross-examination of suspects. In England for example, Rule III of the “Judges’ Rules” includes a caution regarding silence but not the provision or presence of a legal counsel during any kind of discussion or interrogation. Additionally, these “rules” are administrative; failure to abide by them would, in most scenarios, not lead to any information gleaned being deemed inadmissible.
Finally, in India, Miranda equivalents or principles aimed at addressing the same objectives are present in both the Constitution and in various Acts and legislations. Article 22(1) of the Indian Constitution states that “no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.”
Additionally, in 1997, the Indian Supreme Court laid down guidelines regarding arrest procedure, including that the arrested must be told that they have the right to have someone informed of his arrest or detention as soon as they are in custody. Article 20(3) also states that no one accused of an offense should be compelled to be a witness against himself, while Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act states that a confession made to a police officer is inadmissible as evidence. The Code of Criminal Procedure also requires that the Magistrate, before recording a confession, must make it clear that “he is not bound to confess and that, if he does so, it may be used as evidence against him; and the Magistrate shall not record any such confession unless, upon questioning the person making it, he has reason to believe that it is being made voluntarily.”
Having described the reception of the Miranda Doctrine into the international legal community, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Miranda Rights, in several jurisdictions including Germany and India, did not form the bedrock of police-oriented custodial rights, unlike what may be assumed upon observing the prominence of these rights in the popular media.
Additionally, the mere existence of Miranda Rights or their equivalents does not curb the abuse or necessarily achieve the aims of the rights themselves. Miranda Rights must be present and work alongside a variety of other features of a good and fair legal system; institutional accountability and legitimacy, respect for statutory, constitutional, and international protection of human rights, to truly be effective and to protect the accused around the world.
1. Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute, Miranda Warning (last accessed Mar. 2, 2021), https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/miranda_warning
2. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966).
3. Miranda Warning, “What is so important about the right to remain silent?” (Last Accessed Mar. 2, 2021) http://www.mirandawarning.org/whytherighttoremainsilentisimportant.html.
4. Megan A. Fairlie, Miranda and Its (More Rights-Protective) International Counterparts, 20 U.C. Davis J. Int'l L. & Pol'y 1 (2013).
5. McGowan v B  UKSC 54.
6. Fairlie, Supra note 4.
7. Directive 2012/13/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of 22 May 2013 on the Right to Information in Criminal Proceedings, 2013 O.J. (L 142) 1.
8. R v. Voisin  1 KB 531.
9. Geoffrey Wilson, Cases and Materials on Constitutional and Administrative Law (2d ed. 1977).
10. India Const. art. 22, cl. 1.
11. D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997) 1 S.C.C. 216.
12. Supra, note 9, at art 20, cl. 3.
13. Indian Evidence Act, No. 1 of 1872, § 25.
14. Code of Criminal Procedure, Act No. 2 of 1974, § 164(2).