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Ernest Miranda - Earl Warren

court rights attorney supreme

Earl Warren graduated from the University of California in 1912 and received a law degree two years later. He first practiced law in San Francisco and Oakland. In 1919 Warren began a life in public service when he became deputy city attorney of Oakland. In 1920 he became deputy assistant district attorney of Alameda County. Warren served as district attorney of Alameda County from 1925 until 1938.

Warren was elected attorney general of California in 1938 before serving three terms as the state governor beginning in 1942. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61) nominated Earl Warren as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1953, a position he held until his retirement in 1969. Warren chaired many notable cases during his tenure, including the commission investigating the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63).

Warren's Court decisions worked toward fairness in criminal proceedings. Earlier courts had emphasized property rights, but under Warren the Court focused more on individual rights, especially those guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. During his early years as an attorney in criminal justice, Warren had recognized the possibilities for police abuse during pretrial interrogations. He argued that reform was needed to ensure American citizens were duly informed of their rights when accused of committing a crime.

Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren. (The Library of Congress)


The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states, "No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." The rules used to determine whether a confession of guilt was voluntary or forced were vague. Chief Justice Warren led the Supreme Court as they began to look for cases that would enable them to give a clearer, more meaningful rule to define a voluntary confession. Several cases where a defendant had not been adequately advised of his or her rights were reviewed by the Court in the mid-1960s. Miranda v. Arizona was one such case reviewed in 1966. The Court determined Miranda's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination had been violated. The Supreme Court handed down its opinion on June 13 and it contained what is now referred to as the "Miranda Rights."



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