Beyond 'Miranda.' (the Landmark 'Miranda V. Arizona' Case)

Article excerpt

In 1966, the U. S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in Miranda v. Arizona.(1) This article reviews Miranda and discusses some important developments since that decision.

First, the article addresses the degree to which a statement taken in violation of Miranda can be used for impeachment purposes and whether evidence derived from a Miranda violation is admissible. It then looks at the extent to which Miranda applies to undercover police interrogation and whether Miranda warnings are required prior to routine booking questions. Next, the article comments on the development of the so-called "public safety" exception and whether police may continue to interrogate a suspect after he makes an equivocal request for a lawyer. Finally, it examines a statutory substitute for Miranda that has yet to receive constitutional review by the Supreme Court.

The Miranda Decision

At approximately 8:30 p.m. on November 27, 1962, a young woman left the First National Bank of Arizona after attending night classes. A male suspect robbed the woman of $8 at knife-point after forcing his way into her car.(2) Four months later, the same suspect abducted an 18-year-old girl at knife-point and, after tying her hands and feet, drove to a secluded area of the desert and raped her.(3)

On March 13, 1963, police arrested 23-year-old Ernesto Arthur Miranda as a suspect in the two crimes. Miranda had a prior arrest record for armed robbery and a juvenile record for, among other things, attempted rape, assault, and burglary. Both victims viewed corporeal lineups and identified Miranda as their attacker. The police questioned Miranda, and he confessed to both crimes. He signed a confession to the rape that included a typed paragraph explaining that the statement was made voluntarily without threats or promises of immunity and that he had full knowledge of his rights and understood that the statement could be used against him.(4)

Ultimately, the Supreme Court reversed Miranda's conviction and ordered that the confession in the rape case be suppressed. The Court ruled that "an individual held for interrogation must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and have the lawyer with him during interrogation...[that he has] the right to remain silent and that anything stated can be used in evidence against him...that if he is indigent a lawyer will be appointed to represent him."(5) The Court reasoned that all custodial police interrogations are inherently coercive and could never result in a voluntary statement in the absence of a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of the rights enumerated in the Miranda warnings.

The Miranda decision was a departure from the established law in the area of police interrogation. Prior to Miranda, a confession would be suppressed only if a court determined it resulted from some actual coercion, threat, or promise. Under Miranda, the Supreme Court established an irrebuttable presumption that a statement is involuntary if it is taken during custodial interrogation without a waiver of the so-called Miranda warnings.(6) A statement taken in violation of Miranda would result in the suppression of the statement, even though the statement was otherwise voluntary and not the result of coercion of any kind. In fact, in the Miranda decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that Ernesto Miranda was not subjected to any coercion that would render his statement involuntary in traditional terms.(7)

The Miranda requirements apply only when a suspect is both in custody and subjected to interrogation. For purposes of Miranda, "custody" is defined as an arrest or significant deprivation of freedom equivalent to an arrest.(8) "Interrogation," under Miranda, is defined as words or actions likely to elicit an incriminating response from an average suspect.(9)

If the suspect asserts the right to silence, an officer must honor the suspect's assertion and stop the interrogation. …