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 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
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
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. Ohio 19 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