|Quotes • Headscratchers • Playing With • Useful Notes • Analysis • Image Links • Haiku • Laconic|
Donkey: What about my Miranda rights? You're supposed to say, "You have the right to remain silent!" Nobody said I have the right to remain silent!
These are valuable rights to innocent and guilty alike, provided you remember they exist. Not easy when your hands are in cuffs and your face is being smashed against the trunk of a police cruiser. Until the 1966 Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona, American police weren't likely to remind you.
Although the exact wording varies from state to state, it goes something like this:
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 at interrogation time and in court.
In some states the following is added:
Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me? (Or: "... do you wish to make a statement?")
In fiction, the Miranda Rights are frequent victims of Hollywood Law. In some movies or series, the rights are an inevitable part of every climax. In others, perps never seem to get their Miranda rights read to them when they are arrested. The latter case is actually more realistic, since the police only read a Miranda warning to detainees they want to interrogate. When we do see the perps Mirandized, however, the officer almost invariably recites the text from memory. In reality, officers are required to read the rights from a card, to avoid mistakes that could get the case thrown out (any deviation from the actual rights as printed mean the perp was not properly read their rights), and will get the perps to sign the card, in case he later denies having been read his rights. Also, they will not stop when a jaded criminal mastermind mutters, "Yeah yeah, I know my rights..." (They can't, because the law requires that an officer inform a suspect of their rights, whether they claim to know them or not).
The only time in which Miranda can be waived is in cases where "public safety" is under immediate threat and the officer do not have the time or wherewithal to lecture the perp for 30 seconds. The usual example is the hypothetical case where an officer catches a terrorist in a mall and demands where he or she stashed the timed bomb. But these exceptions must be approved on an individual basis. And even if the suspect is not Mirandized prior to interrogation, the evidence gained can still be used by police to justify further action, they just can't bring up the interrogation in court.
People aren't always Mirandized upon arrest either; sometimes, the police will arrest a suspect, get him or her into an interrogation room and on camera, and then read his or her rights, to ensure that the suspect's response (usually waiving the rights) is recorded.
And obviously, undercover officers do not need to read rights.
Incidentally, if you are ever Mirandized, even if you are convinced you've done nothing wrong, the only words out of your mouth should be "I want a lawyer."
- Used in Hyper Police (word for word, insofar as translations go), where Natsuki reads a giant tick his rights (it's that kind of a series). Played for Laughs when she has to read from a card to finish.
- The English dub of the original Tenchi Muyo! series used these as a Lucky Translation for the joke where a panicked Mihoshi, a Space Policewoman, tries reading the giant snake monsters attacking her their rights.
- Apparently, Superman is expected to read rights to captured villains: failure to do so lets one crook off the hook in Lois and Clark; and in Superman Returns, Lex Luthor implies Superman's failure to read him his Miranda rights (and testify in court) helped him weasel out of two life sentences. So, wait, Superman is a cop?
- Well, your regular officer isn't going to have much luck holding down a man who can shoot laser beams out of his hands without being evaporated.
- In one comic (during the John Byrne years) Superman was deputized as a police officer so Lex Luthor (Corporate Bastard version) could be arrested. Perhaps it stuck?
- There's also Dan Turpin, one of the toughest cops in Metropolis, who never memorized the Miranda speech. He has to read it off a card (which, of course, is generally what real cops do). This is actually a plot point in one story where everyone in Metropolis except Dan got superpowers (because, as it turned out, he didn't want them). At the end of the story, they find the professor responsible. When Dan can't read the card-because he doesn't have his glasses-the professor grabs it out of his hand and starts to read it himself, it says "Mxyzptlk" backwards, and the professor is forced to reveal he's really Mr. Mxyzptlk. Superman switched out the card.
- Hilarously parodied in Spanish comic "Pafman", the main characters say the lines "everything you say could be used against you". The bad guy ask what that does mean, so they take the speech balloon that contains this question and smash it in his face.
- Emily, in Misfiled Dreams, already knows her Miranda rights and wants to exercise them. Too bad she's only sixteen.
- Played with in Lethal Weapon 3, after a car chase ends with the perp being ejected through the window and knocked unconscious:
Riggs: You have the right to remain unconscious. Anything you say... ain't gonna be much.
- Also played with in Lethal Weapon 4:
Butters: You have the right to remain silent, so shut the fuck up, okay? You have the right to an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, we'll provide you with the dumbest fucking lawyer on Earth! If you get Johnny Cochran, I'll kill you!
- There is a particularly powerful moment in Minority Report that involves the Miranda rights. When confronting the man who kidnapped and killed his son, the protagonist grapples with the choice of killing him or not. Finally, he makes his intentions clear when he begins reciting the criminal's Miranda rights.
- In Madea Goes to Jail she is not convicted because the police forgot to Mirandize her
- Marcus starts with the Miranda Warnings in the car chase climax of Bad Boys. But, of course, since the villain is in a another car, it's more of a Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
- Mike does it in the sequel.
'Marcus: What are you doin?
- Parodied in Undercover Blues.
Jeff Blue: FBI! You're under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right you may talk, sing, dance, impersonate Elvis or anything else you like. You have the right to an attorney. If you're broke and can't afford one, tough shit! Now get in the car you suspected felon you!
- Also parodied in the very obscure slasher film Psycho Cop 2, by the titular, well...psycho cop.
Joe Vickers: You have the right to remain dead. Anything you say can and will be considered very strange because you're dead. You have the right to an attorney, but it won't do you any good because you're dead. Do you understand these rights that have just been read to you? Are you even listening? It would be a lot easier if you were a little more cooperative!
- Parodied in After the Sunset. FBI agent Lloyd and his nemesis diamond thief Max catch a shark while fishing together. When the shark turns out to be alive, Max gets ready to smash it with a beer crate, when agent Lloyd unloads his revolver into the poor fish, yelling "YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT" at the top of his lungs.
- Parodied to hell and back in the second Police Academy:
Mahoney:You have the right to remain silent. The right to a court-appointed attorney. You have the right to sing the blues. You have the right to cable TV. You have the right to sublet. You have the right to paint the walls. No loud colors.
- Likewise parodied to heck in the 1987 Dragnet movie featuring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks.
Pep Streebeck: You know, Muzz, you have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent any thing you s-, you know these words, Muzz! C'mon, sing along!
- In Showdown In Little Tokyo, Brenden Lee's character uses the Miranda rights as Trash Talk during a fight, capping it with the Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "you have the right to be dead".
- Nancy Drew references this when she strays onto the set of a cop film set in the '50s, noting that it would be anachronistic for Bruce Willis to read the rights. Bruce takes this in stride. The director does not. She does not, however, give the correct date.
- In Running Scared, Billy Crystal plays a Chicago cop. In one scene, he's trying to arrest a crook who is holding a hostage at gunpoint. Crystal's character aims at the crook's head and recites, "You have the right to remain dead. Anything you do will be used against you. You have the right to a coroner. If you cannot afford one, we will appoint a medical examiner for you." (The bad guy surrenders.)
- Fatal Instinct. Ned Ravine reads then to a bank robber - off Cue Cards held up by his partner.
- In the Inspector Gadget film, Gadget's hat includes a scrolling marquee that displays the Miranda rights during an attempted arrest.
- The plot of the 2012 Twenty One Jump Street film is kicked off with a rookie cop failing to properly Mirandize a criminal because he only knew the first line from its use as a stock phrase. At the end, however, he and his partner are able to shout the rights in their entirety to the villain in unison.
- There's a moment in Hannibal where Barney is about to provide Clarice with some information about Lector, but in so doing he'll be confessing to a crime (selling Lector memorabilia.) He asks Clarice to "agree for the record" that she has not read him his rights, so that if she was wearing a wire his confession would be inadmissible. Then he has her repeat the admission into her handbag for good measure.
- Spoofed in Incompetence, the comedy novel by Rob Grant, where the caution takes up an entire chapter and basically amounts to "anything you say (or don't say) means you're both guilty and fully understand your rights". There's also a simplified version, for suspects who don't understand the full version:
"You don't have to say anything, but if you don't, bad things will happen to you. You can ask for a lawyer, but if you do, bad things will happen to you. Do you understand, or shall I read the full version again?"
- In the universe of Snow Crash, the warnings have become incredibly wordy and trilingual, presumably as lawsuit-retardant; one cop translates the legalese back into straightforward, probably for his own amusement. "Any bodily motions not authorised or approved by us may result in responses up to and including lethal force..." "Or as we used to say, 'Freeze, Sucker!'"
- In The Hollows novel For a Few Demons More, Rachel arrests Trent at his wedding and delivers an over-the-top sarcastic Miranda warning, including stating, "If you can't afford one, hell has frozen over and I'm the princess of Oz."
Live Action TV
- In the CSI franchise, we typically cut away just after a CSI tells a detective to, "Read him his rights." On the original CSI, the criminalists are not police officers, so they aren't actually legally empowered to perform the arrest. In CSI: Miami and CSI NY, they are, but still defer to the nearest homicide detective.
- Law and Order usually uses the reading of the Miranda rights as part of an Act Break. The perp is cuffed, and a Detective will begin with "You have the right to remain silent, anything you do say..."� as the scene fades to commercial. We are to assume the rest of the speech was given without having to waste camera time. In fact, if the entire Miranda speech is given on camera, it's a pretty good bet that much of Act II will be spent with the suspect arguing he wasn't Mirandized properly, or some other procedural technicality related to such. Law and Order may have been one of the first shows to demonstrate the legal repercussions of not advising suspects of their Fifth Amendment rights.
- Scully occasionally says this from memory a few times in the earlier episodes of The X-Files after she and Mulder (or whichever member of the local law enforcement) make an arrest.
- Misused on Rabbit Fall where the police constable is arresting the second boyfriend in a row to go to jail. She gives him the Miranda speech because he keeps trying to talk about why he did it. What's wrong with that? She's a Canadian police officer.
- Lampshaded in an episode of Martial Law. A female teenager who has had previous run-ins with police points out to Sammo that the lawyer who was sent to represent her didn't ask if she was read her rights, which tips off Sammo that the lawyer was a fake.
- Played with on NCIS -- while trying to get a perp to talk, they tell him that they can connect his crime to terrorism and get him sent to Guantanamo Bay. His "rights" thus essentially boil down to "You have no rights." He talks.
- NCIS also occasionally reads a member of the military his or her "Article 31s." As a member of the armed forces, the suspect doesn't have Miranda rights, but Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice has a similar provision against compulsory self-incrimination.
- Parodied on Farscape ("Won't Get Fooled Again"):
Crais: FREEZE! You're under arrest! You have the right to the remains of a silent attorney! If you cannot afford one... tough noogies! You can make ONE phone call! I recommend Trixie: 976-Triple 5-LOVE. Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you?! Well do ya, PUNK?
- Bonus insanity points for being delivered by a man in high heeled shoes. Who then slams Crichton's head in a car door.
- In Lois and Clark, policeman barge into Lex Luthor's wedding and start reading his rights to him. Naturally, when they come to the "If you cannot afford a lawyer" part, Lex shouts that he can afford a thousand lawyers.
- Happens Once an Episode (at least) on The Closer. Part of Brenda Johnson's skill as an interrogator is in getting suspects to waive those rights and/or slip up in the interview room.
- The 1960s Dragnet, being a Police Procedural, did this frequently.
- Also Adam-12.
- On Hardcastle and McCormick, in the early episodes Judge Hardcastle carried a Miranda card with him everywhere, including in the pocket of his bathrobe. Since his retirement project was to catch criminals who were getting acquitted on "technicalities," he wanted to make sure he followed procedure (even though, come to think of it, a retired judge isn't a cop, either).
- Having been schooled by Hardcastle, McCormick would sometimes remind the cops arresting the bad guys at the end of the episode that they had to read it from the card, for it to count.
- Discussed in an episode of Frasier. Frasier believes that he cannot commit perjury for Niles's sake, and has a discussion with Martin about it. Martin brings up an example where he did not read a criminal's rights. Said criminal had been arrested multiple times, and knew his rights as well as Martin did.
- Many writers add "editorial comments" from the arresting officer, as with this example from The Closer:
Sanchez: "...any stupid thing you say will be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. If your broke ass can't afford one, one will be provided..."
- An episode of Bones featured Booth arresting and Mirandizing a suspect in a hurry, since he's on an international airplane that's seconds from landing...and once it touches down, Booth doesn't have jurisdiction. Of course, this is patently ridiculous. Miranda warnings are not necessary for a valid arrest; they are concerned with statements by the arrested suspect. "You're under arrest" would have been enough for jurisdictional purposes, with the Miranda warnings coming at Booth's leisure...if international jurisdiction worked like that anyway, which it (probably) doesn't.
- In one episode of Castle this crosses with Lying to the Perp. Beckett and Castle both insist that Beckett did not read a small time crook his rights and that he is free to go. The real ruse works in that they aren't after him, but his boss, who would see him walk out of the precinct (with suspicious ease) and assume he was working with the cops. The crooks only chance at survival is to implicate himself further so that the cops would arrest him, and thus keep him in custody.
- Spoofed in a later episode:
Beckett: You have the right to remain silent ... so shut the hell up.
- The Closer violates Edwards in nearly every episode when suspects ask for lawyers and have questions asked as 'minor things' while the lawyer is coming.
- In the Due South episode "Asylum", Ray gets framed for murder and runs to the Canadian consulate, whereupon Fraser promptly arrests him and reads him his Miranda rights. Since Fraser's whole reason for arresting him in the consulate is to force the Chicago police to extradite him from Canada, you'd think he'd at least make the effort of using the Canadian version of Reading Your Rights.
- Parodied in a Kids in The Hall sketch that involves a very bored criminal robbing a very bored homeowner, then they're interrupted by a very bored police officer who tells the robber, "You have the right to blah blah blah..."
- Used on Boston Legal, where the police almost never get through the warning without one of the lawyers saying something smartass.
- Used rarely in Columbo, most memorably when arresting a lawyer for murdering his mistress. Columbo coolly tells him he's going to read him his rights, pulls out a crumpled note and reads it verbatim.
- Parodied in the Community episode Basic Lupine Urology which is an Affectionate Parody of Law and Order. Troy and Abed are acting like police detectives but regularly point out that they have no authority whatsoever.
Troy: You have the right to do whatever you want, nothing you say or do can be used against you by anyone, but we'd really like it if you came with us, please-and-thank-you...
- Ernesto Miranda, the defendant who went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, ended up serving the exact same sentence. The Supreme Court ruled that his confession was inadmissible evidence because he had not been made aware of his right to not answer questions, so it shouldn't have been brought up, but the Court sent the case back to the State of Arizona for a new trial. Prosecutors retried him, didn't bring up the confession, and got the same verdict.
- More recently, the Supreme Court has now found that this trope brings out its own existence. In Dickerson v. United States, the Court ruled: "We do not think there is such justification for overruling Miranda. Miranda has become embedded in routine police practice to the point where the warnings have become part of our national culture." In other words, in part because the Miranda warnings are so common in fiction, they have ascended to the level of a Constitutional right.
- Unfortunately, despite the original intent of the Miranda decision (to eliminate shady-but-technically-legal police practices circa 1966), the result of the decision has been the standardization of the Miranda warning as part of official police procedure, followed by the adoption of number of techniques that don't actually violate the letter of the law, but do undermine its spirit. The "photocopier lie detector" trick, for example, in both The Wire and Homicide: Life On the Street, doesn't run afoul of the doctrine of Miranda, but is a good example of what the decision was intended to stop. (There's debate about whether that one occurred, but similar methods have developed in police stations across the country.) Additionally, people who are arrested rarely bother to remain silent, and besides, the Supreme Court has scaled back the boundaries of what Miranda means in the forty years since handing down the decision. In the end, Miranda doesn't really interfere with police investigations as much as you might think.
- As the original book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets points out, Miranda is essentially a compromise between a court system that wants to see the rights of the accused protected, and a society that wants to see crimes punished (because confessions are, by and large, the most effective vehicle for that).
- In a case of Reality Is Unrealistic, the Miranda rights (and other American legal tropes) are so ubiquitous in the media that Canadians (who have a significantly different legal system) often expect to be handled like they would in the U.S. For example, the fifth amendment to the Constitution of Canada had nothing to do with rights. It allowed the federal government to provide a bridge between Prince Edward Island and the mainland rather than ferry services. Protection against self-incrimination is found in Section 13. The Canadian caution reads (with some variation depending on the police service):
"You are under arrest for [charge], do you understand? You have the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay. We will provide you with a toll-free telephone lawyer referral service, if you do not have your own lawyer. Anything you say can be used in court as evidence. Do you understand? Would you like to speak to a lawyer?"
- It's not helped by TV shows explicitly set in Canada which nonetheless feature cops reading arrestees their rights American-style. For example, Forever Knight, set in Toronto, has the hero's partner cuffing a guy, starting the "You have the right to remain silent" bit, and actually telling the guy "Sing along, you know the words!" (Canadian rights are, however, similar to American rights in regards to self-incrimination and legal representation. They're just not codified the same way as Miranda. The main significant differences: you do not have the right to have an attorney present while being questioned. If you ask for an attorney right away, the police have to hold off questioning you until you talk to one for advice, but you cannot say that they can't talk to you without your attorney being present. Also, invoking your right to silence doesn't mean the interrogation is over; you don't have to say anything, but the police don't have to stop asking you questions.)
- In France, it is mandatory to read their rights to arrested suspects. This is never done. Popcultural Osmosis often causes French suspects to insist on rights they don't actually have, however.
- Rather amusingly, and due to the subtitles (Closed Captioning) being prepared by an American company, the UK Fly-on-the-Wall Documentary Police Interceptors has the caption "Recites Miranda" whenever one of the police officers tell a suspect "You Do Not Have to Say Anything".
- Neal Stephenson in In The Beginning Was The Command Line:
"We seem much more comfortable with propagating those values to future generations nonverbally, through a process of being steeped in media. Apparently this actually works to some degree, for police in many lands are now complaining that local arrestees are insisting on having their Miranda rights read to them, just like perps in American TV cop shows. When it's explained to them that they are in a different country, where those rights do not exist, they become outraged. Starsky and Hutch reruns, dubbed into diverse languages, may turn out, in the long run, to be a greater force for human rights than the Declaration of Independence."
- Parodied in Zork: Grand Inquisitor, when two Inquisition guards catch Antharia Jack (or the player, if he fails to find a hiding place in time)
First Guard: Go ahead and read him his rights.
- Parodied in Exterminatus Now, too.
- Prototype (video game): "You have the right to be ventilated. I have the right to burn your home and shoot your dog. Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?"
- In Mass Effect, 180 years in the future on a distant planet with an alien criminal:
Parasini: You have the right to remain silent. I wish to God you'd exercise it.
- Marcus in True Crime: New York City parodies this. "You have the right to an attorney and some other shit I can't remember." In the first installment, the protagonist sometimes says to suspects after beating them up and cuffing them: "You have the right to remain - unconscious!"
- In Police Quest, the player had better remember to read everyone they arrest their rights, if they want to finish the game with full points.
- This troper even remembers that this was grounds for Nonstandard Game Over for one case that ended up in a court case.
- From one Penny Arcade strip about two officers arresting a "Lamer".
Police Officer 1: You have the right to remain silent...
- In an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Police Commissioner Gordon is arrested for a crime for which he was framed. The officer begins to recite the Miranda, but Gordon angrily stops him dead with the fact that he for obvious reasons is quite familiar with the recitation. In another episode, the ever-cynical Detective Bullock warns a perp he's just arrested, "You have the right to remain silent, if you choose to give up that right, you're probably going to bore me to death, so just shut up."
- Bullock has a few noteworthy "amendments" to the Miranda rights. In fact, in the shows run, he Mirandizes at least four perps, and not once does he actually use the correct wording.
- Parodied on The Simpsons when Marge becomes a cop. She is forced to arrest Homer after he repeatedly breaks the law (double parking his car so he could buy underage kids beer). When she tells him of his right to remain silent, he replies "I choose to waive that right" and starts screaming.
- All the way back in season 1 (Krusty Gets Busted), Chief Wiggum arrests Krusty and tries to recite the Miranda Rights, but either forgets them or gets bored.
Wiggum: You have the right to remain silent, anything you say blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...
- In the season 13 episode, "The Parent Rap", Wiggum tries again to recite them, this time using a teleprompter in his car.
Wiggum: You have the right to remain um uh...(reads teleprompter) silent? That doesn't sound right.
- Homer uses a modified Miranda rights as bedroom talk:
Homer: You have the right to remain sexy. Anything you touch can and will be used against you in a court of sex. You have the right to an sextorney. If you cannot afford an sextorney, one will be provided- At this point Marge interrupts by grabbing and kissing Homer.
- In the Hey Arnold episode "Wheezin' Ed," when the kids find a counterfeit penny operation run by petty criminals Vic and Morrie, one of the arresting officers uses an interesting Malaproper when effecting the arrest:
Officer: Now get those kids in the boat pronto while I read these two clowns their Mirumba rights."
- Parodied in the Duckman episode "American Dicks", where Duckman is arrested during the taping of two rivaling police reality shows, and the officer arresting him states "You have the right to remain silent. You also have some other rights that they'll dub in during editing".