The Interrogation Process and Miranda

The Interrogation Process and Miranda

Learning Objective 7: Explain why the U.S. Supreme Court established the Miranda warning.

Learning Objective 8: Indicate situations in which a Miranda warning is unnecessary.

A. The Legal Basis for Miranda

i. Fifth Amendment guarantees protection against self-incrimination

ii. A defendant’s choice not to provide information cannot be interpreted as an admission of guilt

iii. Concept of coercion

a. Physical and/or psychological coercion of confessions is not allowed

b. Psychological coercion can be difficult to prove

iv. At the time of Miranda v. Arizona, the Court was mainly concerned about the treatment of suspects during the process of interrogation

v. Today Miranda is mostly know for its procedural requirements

Media Tool

“The Central Park Five”


· A news clip about five juveniles who were convicted of raping a female jogger and later exonerated.


B. When a Miranda Warning is Required

i. When a suspect is in custody and being interrogated

ii. If the suspect feels that s/he cannot leave then Miranda applies even if the suspect has not been officially arrested

C. When a Miranda Warning is Not Required

i. Six Circumstances Under which Miranda is Not Required

a. When the suspect is not being asked questions that are testimonial in nature.

b. When the police have not focused on a suspect and are questioning witnesses at the scene of the crime.

c. When a person volunteers information before the police have asked questions.

d. When a suspect has given a private statement to a friend or some other acquaintance. Miranda does not apply to these statements so long as the government did not orchestrate the situation.

e. During a stop and frisk, when no arrest has been made.

f. During a traffic stop.

ii. Public Safety Exception

a. 1984 – Supreme Court ruled that the protection of the public is more important than a suspect’s Miranda rights

What If Scenario

What if . . . you are a defense attorney representing a client who raped a woman at gunpoint. The discovery reveals that your client was seen in a supermarket by police. The police gave chase, and caught the defendant a few blocks away. When your client was stopped he was found to be wearing an empty gun holster on his belt. Without reading your client his Miranda warning, the police officer asks your client where the gun is. Were your client’s Miranda rights violated? Is the gun going to be excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree?

iii. Waiving Miranda

a. Suspects can waive the Miranda rights

b. The waiver must be voluntary

c. Silence does not mean that the Miranda protections have been relinquished

d. To ensure a suspect’s rights are upheld, prosecutors are required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the suspect “knowingly and intelligently” waived his or her Miranda rights

1. Police can ask two questions to make it clear

· Do you understand your rights as I have read them to you?

· Knowing your rights, are you willing to talk to another law enforcement officer or me?

2. If the suspect does not want speak to a law enforcement officer, then the police must immediately stop the questioning

D. The Future of Miranda

i. Voluntary Statements

a. A suspect who voluntarily told the police where the gun or other weapon is, is permissible even if the police did not read the suspect the Miranda warning

ii. Recording Confessions

a. New trend in law enforcement to monitor interrogations

Lecture Notes

Chapter 6 introduces students to the legal aspects of law enforcement actions involving search and seizure procedures. Whether making an arrest or searching for criminal evidence, officers must be familiar with the concept of probable cause. Probable cause can be established through personal observation, from information gathered by victims and witnesses, through the presence of criminal evidence, or even from contact between the suspect and known offenders. Probable cause is particularly necessary when conducting search and seizures. Officers who lack probable cause are behaving in a manner that violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. In order to prevent law enforcement from using illegally obtained evidence, the exclusionary rule prohibits the admission of such items in court. This is a controversial issue for many students. Should compelling evidence against criminal suspects be disallowed, even if it results in a lack of criminal conviction? There are a number of exceptions to the exclusionary rule, including the good faith exception. In these circumstances the Supreme Court has found that law enforcement acted in good faith, and the exclusionary rule would serve no purpose in preventing unethical and illegal behavior. This is a good time to introduce students to some of the changes made to law enforcement practices in the USA PATRIOT Act. While this topic is covered more thoroughly in Chapter 14, students can begin the discussion of balancing individual freedoms with community safety.

Students also are introduced to both stop-and-frisks and criminal arrests in Chapter 6. It is important that students be able to distinguish between the two. This is a great time to invite a local law enforcement officer to visit the classroom and discuss how reasonable suspicion and probable cause are formulated. What factors can a law enforcement officer offer to initiate a stop? Students might also appreciate an inside look at how an officer uses his or her discretion when determining if he or she will make an arrest.

Once an arrest is made and custodial interrogation begins, interaction between civilians and law enforcement are governed by the Fifth Amendment. To protect individual rights, the Supreme Court ruled in Miranda v. Arizona that suspects being held in custody must be advised of their rights prior to questioning. In certain circumstances Miranda rights do not have to be administered. For example, Miranda is not necessary during stop and frisks, traffic stops, or during booking. While Miranda has become part of our cultural landscape, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a number of rulings since 1980 that erode Miranda’s protections. Ask students to weigh in on this topic, discussing whether they feel Miranda is necessary in today’s crime-fighting environment.

Key Terms

Affidavit – a written statement of facts, confirmed by the oath or affirmation of the party making it and made before a person having the authority to administer the oath or affirmation. (p. 176)

Arrest – to take into custody a person suspected of criminal activity. (p. 189)

Arrest warrant – a written order, based on probable cause and issued by a judge or magistrate, commanding that the person named on the warrant be arrested by the police. (p. 190)

Coercion – the use of physical force or mental intimidation to compel a person to do something – such as confess to committing a crime – against her or his will. (p. 192)

Consent searches – searches by police that are made after the subject of the search has agreed to the action. In these situations, consent, if given of free will, validates a warrantless search. (p. 178)

Custodial interrogation – the questioning of a suspect who has been taken into custody. In this situation, the suspect must be read his or her Miranda rights before interrogation can begin. (p. 193)

Custody – the forceful detention of a person ,or the perception that a person is not free to leave the immediate vicinity. (p. 193)

Electronic surveillance – the use of electronic equipment by law enforcement agents to record private conversations or observe conduct that is meant to be private. (p. 182)

Exclusionary rule – a rule under which any evidence that is obtained in violation of the accused individual’s rights as well as any evidence derived from illegally obtained evidence, will not be admissible in criminal court. (p. 173)

Exigent circumstances – situations that require extralegal or exceptional actions by the police. (p. 190)

Frisk – a pat-down or minimal search by police to discover weapons. (p. 187)

Fruit of the poisoned tree doctrine – evidence that is acquired through the use of illegally obtained evidence and is therefore inadmissible in court. (p. 173)

“Good faith” exception – the legal principle, that evidence obtained with the use of a technically invalid search warrant is admissible during trial if the police acted in good faith when they sought the warrant from a judge. (p. 174)

“Inevitable discovery” exception – the legal principle that illegally obtained evidence can be admitted in court if police using lawful means would have “inevitably” discovered it. (p. 174)

Interrogation – the direct questioning of a suspect to gather evidence of criminal activity and try to gain a confession. (p. 179)

Miranda rights – the constitutional rights of accused persons taken into custody by law enforcement officials, such as the right to remain silent and the right to counsel. (p. 179)

Plain view doctrine – the legal principle that objects in plain view of a law enforcement agent who has the right to be in a position to have that view may be seized without a warrant and introduced as evidence. (p. 182)

Probable cause – reasonable grounds to believe the existence of facts warranting certain actions such as the search or arrest of a person. (p. 171)

Racial profiling – the practice of targeting people for police action based solely on their race, ethnicity, or national origin. (p. 187)

Search – the process by which police examine a person or property to find evidence that will be used to prove guilt in a criminal trial. (p. 175)

Searches and seizures – the legal term, as found in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that generally refers to the searching for and the confiscating of evidence by law enforcement agents. (p. 171)

Searches incidental to arrests – searches, for weapons and evidence that are conducted on persons who have just been arrested. (p. 178)

Search warrants – a written order based on probable cause and issued by a judge or magistrate, commanding that police officers or criminal investigators search a specific person, place, or property to obtain evidence. (p. 176)

Seizure – the forcible taking of a person or property in response to a violation of the law. (p. 177)

Stop – a brief detention of a person by law enforcement agents for questioning. (p. 186)

Warrantless arrest – an arrest made without first seeking warrant for the action. (p. 191)


1. Imagine the police send a drone over your property and discover drugs stacked in front of your house, which are not visible otherwise. Following, the police arrest you and use the evidence from the drone pictures. Discuss whether the evidence is admissible. In your discussion you should include a discussion of the exclusionary rule. What is the reasoning behind this particular rule? What exceptions exist and why does the court grant these exceptions? Would these exceptions apply in this case? (LO 2)

2. Consider situations where the “plain view” doctrine exception to the warrant requirement might or might not apply. For example, would law enforcement need a warrant to send a drone to take pictures of a suspected drug dealer’s back yard? Can the government utilize vision enhancement equipment that helps them see better, such as flashlights and binoculars, and still fall within the “plain view” doctrine? Can a police officer, who initially could not smell marijuana in a suitcase, squeeze air from the suitcase (and then smell marijuana) without implicating the safeguards of the 4th Amendment, or would the situation still fall within the “plain view” exception to the warrant requirement? (LO 4)

3. Research the racial profiling policies of New York and the decision made by Judge Scheindlin at Following, research the reactions to the court ruling. Prepare a class presentation about racial profiling policies, the decision of judge Scheindlin, and the reactions to her decision. (LO 5)

4. Imagine that the police want to make an arrest of a person who is suspected of dealing drugs. Research the requirements that the police officers must fulfill. Describe what they need to do to make a lawful arrest. (LO 6)

5. Write a paper regarding the concepts of coercion and inherent coercion in relation to interrogation. What is the difference between coercion and inherent coercion? Is the process of being interrogated by police intimidating enough that most citizens require the protections afforded by Miranda? On the other hand, has popular culture become so familiar with the Miranda warning and its content that it is no longer necessary to read it prior to police questioning? (LO 7)

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