Miranda and its Aftermath

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Amdt5. 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, a custodial confession case decided two years after Escobedo, the Court deemphasized the Sixth Amendment holding of Escobedo and made the Fifth Amendment self-incrimination rule preeminent.1 The core of the Court's prescriptive holding in Miranda is as follows: “[T]he prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way. As for the procedural safeguards to be employed, unless other fully effective means are devised to inform accused persons of their right of silence and to assure a continuous opportunity to exercise it, the following measures are required. Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed. The defendant may waive effectuation of these rights, provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently. If, however, he indicates in any manner and at any stage of the process that he wishes to consult with an attorney before speaking there can be no questioning. Likewise, if the individual is alone and indicates in any manner that he does not wish to be interrogated, the police may not question him. The mere fact that he may have answered some questions or volunteered some statements on his own does not deprive him of the right to refrain from answering any further inquiries until he has consulted with an attorney and thereafter consents to be questioned.” 2

In the opinion of the Miranda Court, police interrogation as conceived and practiced was inherently coercive and the resulting intimidation, though informal and legally sanctionless, was contrary to the protection to be afforded in a system that convicted on the basis of evidence independently secured. In the Court’s view, this premise underlaid the law in the federal courts since 1897, and the application of the Self-Incrimination Clause to the states in 1964 necessitated the application of the principle in state courts as well. Thereafter, state and local police interrogation practices need be structured to ensure that suspects not be stripped of the ability to make a free and rational choice between speaking and not speaking. The warnings and the provision of counsel were essential, the Court said, in custodial interrogations.3 “In these cases [presently before the Court],” said Chief Justice Warren, “we might not find the defendants’ statements to have been involuntary in traditional terms[, but o]ur concern for adequate safeguards to protect precious Fifth Amendment rights is, of course, not lessened in the slightest.” 4 It was thus not the application of the Self-Incrimination Clause to police interrogation in Miranda that constituted the major change from precedent but rather the prescriptive series of warnings and guarantees which the Court imposed as security for the observance of the privilege.

Although the Court’s decision rapidly became highly controversial and the source of much political agitation, including playing a prominent role in the 1968 presidential election, the Court has continued to adhere to it,5 albeit not without considerable qualification. Nevertheless, the constitutional status of the Miranda warnings has remained clouded in uncertainty. Had the Court announced a constitutionally compelled rule, or merely a supervisory rule that could be superseded by statute? In 1968, Congress enacted a statute, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 3501, designed to set aside Miranda in the federal courts and to reinstate the traditional voluntariness test.6 . See S. Rep. No. 1097, 90th Cong., 2d Sess. 37-53 (1968). An effort to enact a companion measure applicable to the state courts was defeated. The statute lay unimplemented, for the most part, due to constitutional doubts about it. Meanwhile, the Court created exceptions to the Miranda warnings over the years, and referred to the warnings as “prophylactic” 7 and “not themselves rights protected by the Constitution.” 8 There were even hints that some Justices might be willing to overrule the decision.

In Dickerson v. United States,9 the Court addressed the 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 warnings to state proceedings necessarily implied a constitutional base, the Court explained, since federal courts “hold no supervisory authority over state judicial proceedings.” 10 Moreover, Miranda itself had purported to “give concrete constitutional guidance to law enforcement agencies and courts to follow.” 11 The two dissenting Justices in Dickerson maintained that the majority's characterization of Miranda as providing concrete constitutional guidance fell short of holding that custodial interrogation not preceded by Miranda warnings was unconstitutional, a position with which the dissenters pointedly disagreed.12 Eleven years after Dickerson, in the 2011 case J.D.B. v. North Carolina, the number of Justices asserting that Miranda was not a constitutional rule grew to four.13 Also, that Miranda may be rooted in the Constitution does not, according to the Court, mean that the precise articulation of the warnings in it is “immutable.” 14

Beyond finding that Miranda has, at the least, “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 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.” 15

As to the viability of Miranda claims in federal habeas corpus cases, the Court had suggested in 1974 that most claims could be disallowed,16 but such a course was squarely rejected 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,17 and claimed violations of Miranda merited federal habeas corpus review because they relate to the correct ascertainment of guilt.18 The purposes of the Miranda rule differed from the Mapp v. Ohio19 exclusionary rule denied enforcement in habeas proceedings in Stone, the Court explained, because the primary purpose of Mapp was to deter future Fourth Amendment violations, a purpose that the Court claimed would only be marginally advanced by allowing collateral review.20 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.21

384 U.S. 436, 444–45 (1966). In Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719 (1966), the Court held that neither Escobedo nor Miranda was to be applied retroactively. In cases where trials commenced after the decisions were announced, the due process “totality of circumstances” test was to be the key. Cf. Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737 (1966). back
384 U.S. at 444–445. back
Justices Clark, Harlan, Stewart, and 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, but 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
384 U.S. at 457. For the continuing recognition of the difference between the traditional involuntariness test and the Miranda test, see Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U.S. 433, 443–46 (1974); Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 396–402 (1978). The acknowledgment that the decision considerably expanded upon previous doctrine, even if the assimilation of self-incrimination values by the confession-exclusion rule be considered complete, was more clearly made a week after Miranda when, in denying retroactivity to that case and to Escobedo, the Court asserted that law enforcement officers had relied justifiably upon prior cases, “now no longer binding,” which treated the failure to warn a suspect of his rights or the failure to grant access to counsel as one of the factors to be considered. Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719, 731 (1966). back
See, e.g., Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 304 (1980) (Chief Justice Burger 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
Pub. L. No. 90-351, § 701(a), 82 Stat. 210, 18 U.S.C. § 3501. See S. Rep. No. 1097, 90th Cong., 2d Sess. 37-53 (1968). An effort to enact a companion measure applicable to the state courts was defeated. 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
530 U.S. at 444 (Justices Scalia and Thomas dissenting). back
564 U.S. 261 (2011) (Justices Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Chief Justice Roberts, dissenting). 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 had suggested a distinction between a constitutional violation and a violation of “the prophylactic rules developed to protect that right.” The actual holding in Tucker, however, had 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, 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

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