Constitutional Foundations of Miranda
The Miranda case dealt with the admissibility of statements
made during custodial interrogation under the Fifth Amendment's
privilege against compelled self-incrimination. Under Miranda,
a person in custody must be told of the right to remain silent and
warned that any statements can and will be used against the individual
in court. Recognizing that even this warning will not by itself fully
protect the average citizen from the pressures of custodial
interrogation, the Supreme Court also requires that persons in custody
be given the right to consult with a lawyer before and during
interrogation and that this right to counsel be included in the warnings
given by the police. Unless the person being interrogated receives
the required warnings and waives their right to silence and counsel, no
statements they make may be used in court.
When the Miranda rules are not followed, statements made by a suspect are not allowed as evidence for three reasons:
to avoid the risk that statements were forced in violation of the defendant's Fifth Amendment rights;
to encourage officers to comply with the Miranda rules, thereby lessening the future likelihood of compelled self-incrimination; and
to discourage any police practices that tended to compel confessions from suspects.
The Constitution does not explicitly require such warnings or the
exclusion of statements given in the absence of such warnings and
waiver. However, a majority of the Court viewed custodial
interrogations as an extremely intimidating and potentially unfair
procedure. Fearing that the Fifth Amendment would become meaningless
without warning suspects and informing them of the right to counsel, the
Court determined that evidence which was the product of a confession
without these warnings could not be used at trial. Textualists, those
advocating a strictly text-based interpretation of the Constitution,
criticize this methodology as judicial creation of rights.
The Four Miranda Warnings
If Miranda applies, a suspect must be given warnings before being questioned that indicate:
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 the presence of an attorney, and
If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for you prior to any questioning if you so desire.
Is Miranda Applicable?
Miranda does NOT apply unless a person is in custody and subjected to interrogation by a law enforcement officer.
Consider a reasonable person under the same conditions of the suspect:
Would a reasonable person under the same circumstances believe they were free to leave? (In other words: what would an average or typical member of the community think under the same circumstances?)
The Court is not trying to figure out what this particular suspect thought.
B. Interrogation by a law enforcement officer
Even if the person is in custody, Miranda only applies if the suspect was interrogated by known law enforcement officers.
Interrogation—includes any direct questioning by
officers about a crime under investigation and more subtle statements or
conduct that are the functional equivalent of direct questioning
The functional equivalent of direct
questioning is any speech or actions by an officer that they should have
known were reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.
Determining the functional equivalent:
Spontaneous, volunteered statements:
- Spontaneous statements volunteered by the suspect without questioning
are NOT considered the product of interrogation even if the suspect was
in custody at the time.
C. The Public Safety Exception to Miranda
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Miranda warnings are unnecessary prior to questioning that is “reasonably prompted by a concern for the public safety.”
Flowchart for Examining Cases
A Miranda Checklist