Amdt5.4.7.3 Miranda and Its Aftermath

Fifth Amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held that prosecutors may not use statements obtained during a custodial interrogation unless the interrogation was conducted pursuant to certain procedural safeguards. Specifically, the Court concluded that such statements are inadmissible at trial unless the individual subject to interrogation was informed of his or her right to remain silent, that any statements could be used against the subject in subsequent proceedings, and of his or her right to an attorney.1 The Miranda Court regarded police interrogation as inherently coercive. The Court explained that the relevant “Miranda warnings” were necessary to ensure that suspects were not stripped of their ability to make a free and rational choice between speaking and not speaking.2 Although the Miranda decision became highly controversial, the Court has continued to adhere to it.3 However, the Court has created exceptions to the Miranda warnings over the years, and referred to the warnings as “prophylactic” 4 and “not themselves rights protected by the Constitution.” 5

In Dickerson v. United States,6 the Court addressed a foundational issue, finding that Miranda was a “constitutional decision” that could not be overturned by statute, and consequently that 18 U.S.C. § 3501, which provided for a less strict “voluntariness” standard for the admissibility of confessions, could not be sustained.

Consistent application of Miranda's holding on warnings to state proceedings necessarily implied a constitutional basis for Miranda, the Court explained, because federal courts “hold no supervisory authority over state judicial proceedings.” 7 Moreover, Miranda itself had purported to guide law enforcement agencies and courts.8 However, even if Miranda is rooted in the Constitution, the Court has indicated that this does not mean a precise articulation of its required warnings is “immutable.” 9

In addition to finding that Miranda had “constitutional underpinnings,” the Dickerson Court also rejected a request to overrule Miranda. “Whether or not we would agree with Miranda's reasoning and its resulting rule, were we addressing the issue in the first instance,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for the seven-Justice majority, “the principles of stare decisis weigh heavily against overruling it now.” There was no special justification for overruling the decision; subsequent cases had not undermined the decision’s doctrinal underpinnings, but rather had “reaffirm[ed]” its “core ruling.” Moreover, Miranda warnings had “become so embedded in routine police practice [that they] have become part of our national culture.” 10

As to the viability of Miranda claims in federal habeas corpus cases, the Court suggested in 1974 that most claims could be disallowed11 but reversed course in 1993. The Court ruled in Withrow v. Williams that Miranda protects a fundamental trial right of the defendant, unlike the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule addressed in Stone v. Powell.12 Thus, claimed violations of Miranda merited federal habeas corpus review because they related to the correct ascertainment of guilt.13 The Miranda rule differed from the Mapp v. Ohio14 exclusionary rule because Mapp’s primary purpose was to deter future Fourth Amendment violations, which the Court opined would only be marginally advanced by allowing collateral review.15 A further consideration was that eliminating review of Miranda claims would not significantly reduce federal habeas review of state convictions, because most Miranda claims could be recast in terms of due process denials resulting from admission of involuntary confessions.16

The Court further explored the constitutional nature of Miranda in its 2022 case Vega v. Tekoh.17 In Vega, the Court reiterated that while Miranda was a constitutional decision that adopted constitutional rules, those rules were set forth by the Court as a way to safeguard constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment.18 Therefore, a Miranda violation does not necessarily constitute a violation of the Constitution.19 The Court concluded that because a Miranda violation is not a violation of a constitutional right, it is not actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which requires someone suffer the deprivation of [a] right . . . secured by the Constitution.20

384 U.S. at 444–445. back
Justices Tom Clark, John Harlan, Potter Stewart, and Byron White dissented, finding no historical support for the application of the Clause to police interrogation and rejecting the policy considerations for the extension put forward by the majority. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 499, 504, 526 (1966). Justice White argued that while the Court’s decision was not compelled or even strongly suggested by the Fifth Amendment, its history, and the judicial precedents, this did not preclude the Court from making new law and new public policy grounded in reason and experience. However, he contended that the change made in Miranda was ill-conceived because it arose from a view of interrogation as inherently coercive and because the decision did not adequately protect society’s interest in detecting and punishing criminal behavior. Id. at 531–45. back
See, e.g., Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 304 (1980) (Burger, C.J., concurring) ( “The meaning of Miranda has become reasonably clear and law enforcement practices have adjusted to its strictures; I would neither overrule Miranda, disparage it, nor extend it at this late date.” ) back
New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 549, 653 (1984). back
Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U.S. 433, 444 (1974). back
530 U.S. 428 (2000). back
530 U.S. at 438. back
530 U.S. at 439 (quoting from Miranda, 384 U.S. at 441–42). back
See, e.g., Florida v. Powell, 559 U.S. 50, 60, 63–64 (2010). back
530 U.S. at 443. back
In Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U.S. 433, 439 (1974), the Court suggested a distinction between a constitutional violation and a violation of “the prophylactic rules developed to protect that right.” The holding in Tucker, however, turned on the fact that the interrogation had preceded the Miranda decision and that warnings—albeit not full Miranda warnings—had been given. back
428 U.S. 465 (1976) back
507 U.S. 680 (1993). Even though a state prisoner’s Miranda claim may be considered in federal habeas review, the scope of federal habeas review is narrow. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), a state court judgment may be set aside on habeas review only if the judgment is found to be contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established Supreme Court precedent. By contrast, a federal court reviewing a state court judgment on direct review considers federal legal questions de novo and can overturn a state court holding based on its own independent assessment of federal legal issues. This difference in scope of review can be critical. Compare Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652 (2004) (habeas petition denied because state court’s refusal to take a juvenile’s age into account in applying Miranda was not an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent), with J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 564 U.S. 261 (2011) (on the Court’s de novo review of the age issue, a state court’s refusal to take a juvenile’s age into account in applying Miranda held to be in error, and case remanded). back
367 U.S. 643 (1961). back
507 U.S. at 686–93. back
507 U.S. at 693. back
No. 21-499 (U.S. June 23, 2022). back
Id. at 11. back
Id. at 13. back
Id. back