Miranda v. Arizona


Miranda v. Arizona

A Primer

Dealt with the admissibility of statements made during custodial interrogation under the Fifth

Amendment's privilege against compelled selfincrimination.

Miranda Background

To help dispel the

“inherently coercive” atmosphere of custodial interrogation, 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.

Miranda Background

“Once-stated warning” will not by itself fully protect the average citizen from the coercive pressures

Requires that persons in custody be given the right to consult with a lawyer before and during interrogation.

Right to counsel be included in the warnings given by the police

Miranda Background

If not done properly, no statements they make may be admitted in court.


(1) to avoid the risk that statements were compelled in violation of the defendant's Fifth

Amendment rights;

(2) to encourage officers to comply with the

Miranda rules, thereby lessening the future likelihood of compelled self-incrimination; and

(3) to discourage the kinds of unsavory police practices that tended to compel confessions from suspects.

Why Miranda Warnings?

The Constitution does not explicitly require such warnings or the exclusion of statements given in the absence of such warnings and waiver.

Majority of the Court viewed custodial interrogations as inherently coercive and feared w/o it 5 th

Amendment would be useless

Miranda Purpose

If Miranda applies, a suspect must be given warnings before being questioned which indicate:

◦ He has the right to remain silent,

Anything he says can and will be used against him in a court of law,

He has the right to the presence of an attorney, and

If he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires.

The Four Miranda Warnings

Miranda does NOT apply unless a person is in custody and subjected to interrogation by a law enforcement officer.

When does Miranda NOT apply?

Custody requires a significant deprivation of


A person is in custody only if they are subjected to either formal arrest or its

functional equivalent.”

Formal arrest—occurs when a person is explicitly told they are being placed under arrest or is booked at the stationhouse.

Functional equivalent—occurs when a suspect's freedom of action is significantly curtailed to a degree associated with a formal arrest.

Example: Back of a cop car, in a closed room, Would a reasonable person in same situation believe they are in custody (not what did accused think)


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.

Interrogation by Officer

Determining the functional equivalent:

◦ Reasonably Likely

Officer know response was likely

Officer’s Intent

Officer’s knowledge of the suspect


Link between the police conduct and crime


Almost always interrogation

What is functional equivalent?

Spontaneous, volunteered statements:

◦ Even if IN custody

Miranda warnings are unnecessary prior to questioning that is “reasonably prompted by a concern for the public safety”

◦ Example: interrogation that occurs as police try to locate a bomb they believe is set to go off

Exceptions to the Rule

In a five to four decision, the Court strongly suggested that Alvarado was not in custody for Miranda purposes.

(Due to the procedural posture of the case, the Court’s actual holding was that the lower court had not ruled unreasonably when it determined that Alvarado was not in custody.) Alvarado came voluntarily to the police station, was never told that he could not leave, was

not threatened with arrest, and was allowed to return

home after the interview. In determining whether Miranda warnings are required, the custody inquiry is from the

point of view of a reasonable suspect in the situation, not the particular suspect actually in the situation. Thus,

Alvarado’s age and inexperience with police were

irrelevant in the custody inquiry.

Yarborough v. Alvarado (2004)

After police located Quarles – who fit the description of an alleged assailant and wore an empty holster – it would have been reasonable for a law enforcement officer to conclude that Quarles had just removed a gun from that holster and hidden it somewhere. A hidden gun could

pose a significant threat to the public safety because it could become available for use by an accomplice or found and used by any other person. When a reasonable officer would conclude that there is a significant threat to the public safety, Miranda warnings need not be given.

This is known as the “public safety exception.” Thus, a significant threat to the public safety justified the failure to give Quarles Miranda warnings

New York v. Quarles (1984)

These facts were taken from coverage of the recent incident in New

York City in early May of 2010 involving the “Time Square

Bomber.” The law enforcement officers who questioned Shahzad after arresting him on the airplane invoked the “public safety exception.”

Although his case has not yet been resolved (as of June 2010), his immediate arrest and questioning without Miranda warnings can be said to be justified by a significant threat to the public safety given that

Shahzad could have been linked to other terrorist plots that had yet

to unfold.

In the wake of the incident, discussion has begun about the possibility of

a new “national security exception” to Miranda. Shahzad continued answering questions after he was read his Miranda rights and reports suggest that he provided additional intelligence. Supporters of a new exception stress that he could have refused to say anything further and stopped the flow of important security information once the law enforcement officers determined the threat to the public safety had passed and read him his rights. They argue that the United States

needs to be able to question suspected terrorists freely.

Yet to be heard…

When McCarty stepped out of his car he was not yet in

custody. To the reasonable person, a traffic stop

is “presumptively temporary and brief” and the motorist knows that “in the end he most likely will

be allowed to continue on his way.” Therefore,

Miranda warnings were not required before

McCarty’s arrest. After his arrest, McCarty should have been read his Miranda rights because direct questioning resumed. However, given that McCarty’s

pre-arrest statements were not subject to Miranda and provided substantial incriminating evidence against him, the Court considered failing to read

McCarty his rights harmless error.

Berkemer v. McCarty