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The following discussion comes from your week 4 readings. Outside research to address these issues is encouraged. I would suggest using the online library for additional sources of information and research.  In addition, I would recommend utilizing the legal studies program guide. Please remember to cite your references.

The Fifth Amendment protect individuals against self- incrimination. The Sixth Amendment affords individuals protections in the criminal process.

This discussion asks you to examine the rights afforded to individuals under the Fifth and Sixth Amendment.

Please thoroughly discuss each of the following:

  1. Discuss the difference between an arrest and a custodial interrogation. When must Miranda be given to an individual?
  2. Discuss how the court determines if a confession should be admissible or not. What does the court look for to determine if a confession is voluntarily given? 

University of Michigan Law School
University of Michigan Law School Scholarship Repository

Articles Faculty Scholarship


The Miranda Case Fifty Years Later
Yale Kamisar
University of Michigan Law School, [email protected]

Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/articles/1858

Follow this and additional works at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/articles

Part of the Constitutional Law Commons, Criminal Procedure Commons, Evidence Commons,
and the Supreme Court of the United States Commons

This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Faculty Scholarship at University of Michigan Law School Scholarship Repository. It has
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Recommended Citation
Kamisar, Yale. “The Miranda Case Fifty Years Later.” Bos. U. L. Rev. 97, no. 3 (2017): 1293-307.





I. A LOOK BACK AT MIRANDA ……………………………………………………. 1293
II. THE THREE DISSENTS IN MIRANDA …………………………………………… 1296
IV. THE ROLE OF TELFORD TAYLOR ……………………………………………… 1299
V. THE LIMITED ROLE OF THE LAWYER ………………………………………… 1299
VII. SHOULD THERE BE MORE WARNINGS? …………………………………….. 1300

DELIVERED TELL US ……………………………………………………………… 1301
X. SALINAS V. TEXAS ……………………………………………………………………. 1302

A decade after the Supreme Court decided Miranda v. Arizona,1 Geoffrey

Stone took a close look at the eleven decisions the Court had handed down
“concerning the scope and application of Miranda.”2 As Stone observed, “[i]n
ten of these cases, the Court interpreted Miranda so as not to exclude the
challenged evidence.”3 In the eleventh case, the Court excluded the evidence on
other grounds.4 Thus, Stone noted, ten years after the Court decided the case,
“the Court ha[d] not held a single item of evidence inadmissible on the authority
of Miranda.”5 Not a single item. To use baseball terminology, in Miranda’s first
eleven “at bats,” it went zero for eleven.

∗ Clarence Darrow Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Law, University of Michigan
School of Law; Professor Emeritus of Law, University of San Diego School of Law.

1 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
2 Geoffrey R. Stone, The Miranda Doctrine in the Burger Court, 1977 SUP. CT. REV. 99,

100; see also United States v. Washington, 431 U.S. 181 (1977); United States v. Wong, 431
U.S. 174 (1977); Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492 (1977) (per curiam); Doyle v. Ohio, 426
U.S. 610 (1976); United States v. Mandujano, 425 U.S. 564 (1976); Beckwith v. United
States, 425 U.S. 341 (1976); Baxter v. Palmigiano, 425 U.S. 308 (1976); Michigan v. Mosley,
423 U.S. 96 (1975); Oregon v. Hass, 420 U.S. 714 (1975); Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U.S. 433
(1974); Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222 (1971).

3 Stone, supra note 2, at 100.
4 Id. (citing Doyle, 426 U.S. at 619).
5 Id. at 100-01. I agree with Frank Allen, who stated that:


For those of us who welcomed Miranda, this turned out to be deeply
disappointing. But it would not have come as much of a surprise to those who
remember the four Justices President Nixon appointed to the Supreme Court
during his first term of office: Chief Justice Burger, Justice Blackmun, Justice
Powell, and Justice Rehnquist.6

Before being appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, then-Judge
Burger of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit left no doubt,
both in his dissenting opinions7 and in public speeches,8 that he was extremely
unhappy with the Warren Court’s criminal procedure cases.9

Chief Justice Burger may have been the most police-friendly Supreme Court
Justice of all time—only with the possible exception of another Nixon appointee,
William Rehnquist.10 In fact, shortly after Rehnquist became Assistant Attorney

[S]urely the most fundamental reasons for the [Warren] Court’s loss of impetus lies in
the social and political context of the Court in the late 1960’s. That period was a time of
social upheaval, violence in the ghettos, and disorder on the campuses. Fears of the
breakdown of public order were widespread. Inevitably, the issue of law and order were
[sic] politically exploited. In the presidential campaign of 1968 the bewildering problems
of crime in the United States were represented simply as a war between the “peace
forces” and the “criminal forces.” The decision in Miranda evoked a chorus of criticism
of the Court, ranging from the excited to the psychotic. Congress responded with the
Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, some provisions of which were
obviously retaliatory. These events combined to create an atmosphere that, to say the
least, was unfavorable to the continued vitality of the Warren Court’s mission in criminal

Francis A. Allen, The Judicial Quest for Penal Justice: The Warren Court and the Criminal
Cases, 1975 U. ILL. L.F. 518, 538-39 (footnotes omitted).

6 See Stone, supra note 2, at 99 n.2; see also Yale Kamisar, The Rise, Decline, and Fall (?)
of Miranda, 87 WASH. L. REV. 965, 974-91 (2012).

7 See, e.g., Frazier v. United States, 419 F.2d 1161, 1176 (D.C. Cir. 1969) (Burger, J.,
concurring in part and dissenting in part) (“We are well on our way to forbidding any utterance
of an accused to be used against him unless it is made in open court. Guilt or innocence
becomes irrelevant in the criminal trial as we flounder in a morass of artificial rules poorly
conceived and often impossible of application.”); Borum v. United States, 380 F.2d 595, 602
(D.C. Cir. 1967) (Burger, J., dissenting) (“I suggest that the kind of nit-picking appellate
review exhibited by reversal of this conviction may help explain why the public is losing
confidence in the administration of justice. I suggest also that if we continue on this course
we may well come to be known as a society incapable of defending itself—the impotent

8 See, e.g., Warren E. Burger, Who Will Watch the Watchmen?, 14 AM. U. L. REV. 1, 23
(1964) (“We can all ponder whether any community is entitled to call itself an ‘organized
society’ if it can find no way to solve this problem except by suppression of truth in the search
for truth.”).

9 See Kamisar, supra note 6, at 976-98 (chronicling then-Judge Burger’s contempt for the
Warren Court’s criminal procedure jurisprudence, and describing how his views caught the
attention of President Nixon).

10 See id. at 980-91 (describing the prominent roles Chief Justice Burger and Chief Justice
Rehnquist played in “the downsizing and dismantling of Miranda”).


General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, he urged the President to
appoint a commission to consider whether such cases as Miranda needed to be
corrected by a constitutional amendment.11

As for Justice Blackmun and Justice Powell, neither one’s appointment to the
Court should have come as much of a surprise either. Chief Justice Burger had
recommended then-Judge Blackmun, a close friend since their childhood days,
to President Nixon for a nomination to the Court.12 It was widely assumed that
Justice Blackmun would follow the new Chief Justice’s lead.13 As for Justice
Powell, when the National Crime Commission issued its report in 1967, the
future Justice turned out to be one of seven members of the Commission to sign
a supplemental statement underscoring the need to return to the pre-Miranda
“voluntariness” test14—even “[i]f, as now appears likely, a constitutional
amendment is required.”15

In retrospect, I think it is fair to say that Miranda never recovered from
Nixon’s four Supreme Court appointments.16

11 Memorandum from William H. Rehnquist, Assistant Att’y Gen., Office of Legal

Counsel, to John W. Dean III, Assoc. Deputy Att’y Gen. (Apr. 1, 1969).

that Justice Blackmun “could be expected to follow closely the new Chief Justice’s lead”).
Indeed, in his first five years on the Court, Justice Blackmun voted with Justice Burger in
over eighty-five percent of the closely divided cases. GREENHOUSE, supra note 12, at 186. In
the next ten years, however, Justice Blackmun voted more often with Justice Brennan than
with the Chief Justice. Id. (“By the next five-year period, 1975 to 1980, Blackmun was joining
Brennan in 54.5 percent of the divided cases and Burger in 45.5 percent. During the final five
years that he and Burger served together, he joined Brennan in 70.6% of the close cases and
Burger in only 32.4 percent.”).

IN A FREE SOCIETY 303 (1967), https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/42.pdf

15 Id. at 308. The supplemental statement also emphasized the need to allow “for comment
on the failure of [a defendant] to take the stand” in his or her own defense. Id.

16 I should recognize, however, that some thoughtful commentators have reached very
different conclusions than I have regarding the impact of President Nixon’s four
appointments. See, e.g., JOHN C. JEFFRIES, JR., JUSTICE LEWIS F. POWELL, JR. 398 (1994)
(“With the appointments of Burger and Blackmun and the later addition of Powell and
Rehnquist, the conservatives had a decisive majority on most questions of criminals’ rights.
But to the distress of some and the relief of others, there was no sudden about-face. The
conservative majority generally accepted the achievements of the Warren Court—but refined
them, constrained them, and reduced their scope. The result was a new synthesis, based partly
on the insights and innovations of the Warren Court and partly on the doubts and objections
of its critics.”).


Returning to the case itself, four Justices wrote three separate dissenting

opinions in Miranda.17 In one way or another, each dissent assumed that
Miranda would be a criminal justice disaster—that very few suspects, if any,
would waive their rights.

Justice Clark was the most senior Justice to dissent in Miranda, but he spoke
only for himself. Justice Clark maintained that there was “no significant support”
for the view that “the Fifth Amendment privilege, in effect, forbids custodial
interrogation.”18 This is an odd statement about Miranda—the majority never
said anything like that—and it is unsupported by any plausible interpretation of
the case. Rather, the majority in Miranda took some time spelling out what is,
and what is not, “custodial interrogation.”19 Shortly after Miranda was decided,
it remained to be seen what impact it would have on custodial interrogation. But
Miranda did permit some still-to-be-determined interrogation to take place.20

Justice Harlan, joined by Justices Stewart and White, wrote a long dissent.21
At one point, Harlan claimed (without any explanation) that “to suggest or
provide counsel for the suspect simply invites the end of the interrogation.”22 It
is not at all clear what Justice Harlan meant.23

But, before getting to the final dissent, another word about the police and the
right to a lawyer. Miranda does not automatically (or routinely) provide for

17 See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 499-504 (1966) (Clark, J., dissenting); id. at 504-

26 (Harlan, J., dissenting); id. at 526-45 (White, J., dissenting).
18 Id. at 503 n.4 (Clark, J., dissenting).
19 See, e.g., id. at 444 (majority opinion) (“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.”); id. at 477 (“The
principles announced today deal with the protection which must be given to the privilege
against self-incrimination when the individual is first subjected to police interrogation while
in custody at the station or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant
way.”). The Miranda majority does tell us that “[g]eneral on-the-scene questioning as to facts
surrounding a crime or other general questioning of citizens in the fact-finding process is not
affected by our holding.” Id. at 477. The majority added, however, that “[i]t is an act of
responsible citizenship for individuals to give whatever information they may have to aid in
law enforcement.” Id. at 477-78.

20 See Kamisar, supra note 6, at 971-72 (discussing some of the misperceptions pervasive
in public opinion in the wake of Miranda).

21 See Miranda, 384 U.S. at 504-26 (Harlan, J., dissenting).
22 Id. at 517 (emphasis added).
23 Of course, there is a huge gap between “suggesting” counsel and “providing” it.


one.24 Rather, the suspect must ask for one.25 In recent years it has become quite
clear that most suspects wind up deciding not to ask for one.26

Justice Harlan was not the only Justice who wrote a long dissenting opinion.
Justice White, joined by Justices Harlan and Stewart, did so as well.27 Of the
three dissenting opinions written in Miranda, Justice White’s struck me as the
most powerful. At one point, however, Justice White simply skipped over the
fact that those taken into custody were free to waive their rights without ever
meeting with a lawyer.28 The second time around, Justice White made a
correction. He did say that a suspect could waive his right to counsel without
ever meeting with a lawyer.29 But his conclusion was still misleading because
Justice White seemed to assume that a lawyer could still “advise the accused to
remain silent”—could still rescue the suspect—even though the accused had
already waived his right to counsel:

As the Court declares that the accused may not be interrogated without
counsel present, absent a waiver of the right to counsel, and as the Court
all but admonishes the lawyer to advise the accused to remain silent, the
result adds up to a judicial judgment that evidence from the accused should
not be used against him in any way, whether compelled or not.30

Justice White failed to make it clear that once the suspect waives his right to
obtain the advice of a lawyer, the lawyer drops out of the picture completely.
That is, there is no longer any lawyer to advise the accused to remain silent. To
put it another way, once a suspect no longer seeks the advice of a lawyer, only
two things can happen: (1) the suspect can remain silent, not saying anything to
anyone; or (2) the suspect can start talking to other people in the vicinity (most
likely other police officers or other prosecuting attorneys—because nobody else
is likely to be in the vicinity).31

24 See Miranda, 384 U.S. at 474 (majority opinion) (stating that the Court’s decision did
not mean “that each police station must have a ‘station house lawyer’ present at all times to
advise prisoners”); Kamisar, supra note 6, at 979 (noting that “the Miranda Court plainly
rejected” a rule “requiring the police to make sure that a custodial suspect actually confers
with a lawyer before he can be questioned”).

25 See Kamisar, supra note 6, at 979 (“[T]he rule Miranda actually adopted . . . only calls
for the police to advise a custodial suspect he has a right to a lawyer, and only grants him the
right to a lawyer if he asks for one . . . .”).

26 See infra note 44; see also Kamisar, supra note 6, at 980.
27 See Miranda, 384 U.S. at 526-45 (White, J., dissenting).
28 See id. at 536 (“[T]he Court not only prevents the use of compelled confessions but for

all practical purposes forbids interrogation except in the presence of counsel.”).
29 Compare id., with id. at 537-38 (acknowledging the potential for suspects to waive their

right to an attorney).
30 Id. at 537-38 (emphasis added).
31 In recent years, numerous studies have concluded that approximately eighty percent of

suspects do waive their rights. See infra note 44 and accompanying text (discussing the
statistical impacts of Miranda).


At one point in his dissenting opinion, Justice White wondered what is wrong

or inappropriate if the police ask a murder suspect a single question without
giving any warning: “Did you kill your wife?”32 But if the police can ask only a
single question, this is unlikely to be the one they will ask. The police realize
that in order to be successful they must first build a rapport with the suspect. It
takes a number of questions (and an appreciable amount of time) to achieve that.
Moreover, if one question is unlikely to produce a “compelled” answer,33 neither
are two or three questions. They, too, do not produce a “compelled” confession.
So, what’s wrong with asking a few questions, such as the following: “(1) How
long were you married? (2) How many children do you have? (3) Was it a happy
marriage? (4) Did you kill your wife?” If two or three questions were permitted,
the issue would soon become whether the police questioning amounted to
sustained or persistent questioning. This issue would give trial judges
considerable room to maneuver—as trial judges once had.34 I do not believe we
want to return to the old days (especially when most police questioning is still
not videotaped or tape-recorded).35

32 See Miranda, 384 U.S. at 533-34 (White, J., dissenting) (arguing that under the
majority’s decision, a suspect’s response to such a question, “if there is one, has somehow
been compelled, even if the accused has been clearly warned of his right to remain silent”).

33 See, e.g., id. at 534 (“While one may say that the response was ‘involuntary’ in the sense
the question provoked or was the occasion for the response and thus the defendant was
induced to speak out when he might have remained silent if not arrested and not questioned,
it is patently unsound to say the response is compelled.”).

34 See Paul Marcus, It’s Not Just About Miranda: Determining the Voluntariness of
Confessions in Criminal Prosecutions, 40 VAL. U. L. REV. 601, 643-44 (2006) (asserting that
“[t]he due process test offers almost no guidance for lawyers and judges,” and concluding that
the voluntariness rules are “just as poorly and inconsistently applied as they were in the 1950s
and 1960s,” and that “[i]n comparison, the imprecisely bright line rules of Miranda look very
good”); Stephen J. Schulhofer, Confessions and the Court, 79 MICH. L. REV. 865, 869-70
(1981) (observing that under the voluntariness test, “[n]ot only were conscientious trial judges
left without guidance for resolving confession claims but they were virtually invited to give
weight to their subjective preferences when performing the elusive task of balancing”);
William J. Stuntz, Miranda’s Mistake, 99 MICH. L. REV. 975, 980 (2011) (conceding that “the
three decades before Miranda showed that a case-by-case voluntariness inquiry sorted badly,
and at least part of the reason was that courts had a very hard time judging, case by case, the
difference between good and bad police interrogation tactics”).

35 As do many other commentators, George Thomas and Richard Leo favor “recording the
relevant contact between the police and the suspect.” GEORGE C. THOMAS III & RICHARD A.
“Perhaps one hundred other writers,” point out Thomas and Leo, “are on record
recommending some form of recording.” Id. at 221. So far as I know, only one commentator
has declined to add his name to the list: Lawrence Rosenthal. See Lawrence Rosenthal,
Against Orthodoxy: Miranda Is Not Prophylactic and the Constitution Is Not Perfect, 10
CHAP. L. REV. 579, 607 (2007) (“[W]e cannot expect videotaping to curb what are already
deemed abuses under current law . . . .”).


Of all the lawyers involved in Miranda and its companion cases, Telford

Taylor was probably the most impressive. Shortly after the end of World War
II, he had been a high-ranking Nuremberg prosecutor.36 At the time he argued
Miranda, he was a professor at Columbia Law School.37

Taylor was the principal author of an amicus brief filed on behalf of twenty-
seven states.38 He also argued the case in the Supreme Court on behalf of these
states. When it came to the waiver of rights, Taylor turned out to be even more
emphatic—even more extreme—than any of the dissenting Justices in Miranda
had been. Taylor, too, skipped over the possibility that suspects could and would
waive their rights. In fact, he came close to ridiculing the idea that a significant
number of suspects would do so. To quote from Taylor’s brief:

Assuming that the privilege against self-incrimination is the principal legal
element in the interrogation problem, virtually the only function of the
station-house counsel will be to paste adhesive tape over his new clients’
mouths. It is at best dubious whether such a practice would attract the
cream of the bar.39

If one takes the Justices who dissented in the Miranda case seriously, one

comes away with the impression that the lawyer decides whether there is a
meeting between lawyer and client—not the suspect. Justice White’s views to
the contrary notwithstanding, the suspect “calls the shots”—not the lawyer. The
lawyer plays no role whatever unless and until the suspect asks to meet with a
lawyer if it ever gets that far. The lawyer may ultimately decide to paste tape
over her new client’s mouth,40 but she does not get the opportunity to do so
unless and until the potential client invokes her right to counsel. Thus, the lawyer
is unable to do anything unless and until the suspect makes the decision to meet
with a lawyer. The suspect never even finds out who his or her lawyer might
have been—unless she makes the decision to meet with one.

As it turned out, the Miranda majority was listening to the four dissenters

more closely than the Miranda dissenters themselves realized. As a result, the

36 See Richard Severo, Telford Taylor, Who Prosecuted Top Nazis at the Nuremberg War
Trials, Is Dead at 90, N.Y. TIMES (May 24, 1998),
nuremburg-war-trials-dead-90.html [https://perma.cc/X3N8-8M28].

37 See id.
38 See Brief for New York et al. as Amici Curiae Supporting Respondents, Miranda v.

Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) (Nos. 759-62, 584).
39 Id. at 30.
40 See id.


Miranda majority had worked out a compromise that the Miranda dissenters—
based on what they wound up writing in their dissenting opinions—failed to
fully appreciate. Peter Arenella has explained it well:

If the Court had followed the logic of its “inherently coercive” rationale
[pertaining to police interrogation] to its bitter end, it would not have
permitted suspects to waive their Miranda rights without the advice of
counsel. But requiring the advice of counsel before permitting a valid
Miranda waiver would have seriously eroded the police’s ability to engage
in successful custodial interrogations. To avoid this law enforcement
nightmare, the Court compromised by permitting waivers of Miranda
rights before consultation with counsel.41

Convinced that a major reason Mirandized suspects talk to the police is the

belief “that remaining silent will make them ‘look guilty’ and will be used
against them as evidence of guilt,” Mark Godsey has proposed that the first two
warnings “should be buttressed by a new ‘right to silence’ warning that provides
something to the effect of: ‘If you choose to remain silent, your silence will not
be used against you as evidence to suggest that you committed a crime simply
because you refused to speak.’”42 There is something to be said for such a
warning. The Miranda Court might have required the warning if it had focused
on this specific issue in 1966. Since then, however, I would have to say that the
“balance of power” between the suspect and the police has been worked out and
the Court is unlikely to change it any more.

Fifteen years ago, George Thomas maintained that “by most accounts,

Miranda has been a spectacular failure.”43 One reason Thomas arrived at this
conclusion is probably the high rate of “waiver of rights” when suspects are
given the Miranda warnings—approximately eighty percent.44 Very few so-

41 Peter Arenella, Miranda Stories, 20 HARV. J.L. & PUB. POL’Y 375, 384 (1997) (emphasis

42 Mark A. Godsey, Reformulating the Miranda Warnings in Light of Contemporary Law
and Understandings, 90 MINN. L. REV. 781, 793 (2006).

43 George C. Thomas III, Miranda’s Illusion: Telling Stories in the Police Interrogation
Room, 81 TEX. L. REV. 1091, 1092 (2003) (reviewing WELSH S. WHITE, MIRANDA’S WANING

44 See, e.g., DONALD A. DRIPPS, ABOUT GUILT AND INNOCENCE 224-25 n.117 (2003);
MIRANDA RULING 4 (2010); Godsey, supra note 42, at 792; Richard A. Leo & Welsh S. White,
Adapting to Miranda: Modern Interrogators’ Strategies for Dealing with the Obstacles Posed
by Miranda, 84 MINN. L. REV. 397, 468 (1999); Richard A. Leo, Inside the Interrogation
Room, 86 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOLOGY 266, 286 (1996); Charles D. Weisselberg, Mourning
Miranda, 96 CALIF. L. REV. 1519, 1547-63 (2008); Tracey Maclin, A Comprehensive Analysis


called “Supreme Court experts” (and I was one of them fifty years ago) expected
anything like that figure when Miranda was first decided.45 It has become
increasingly clear that some system of recording or videotaping how the
warnings are delivered should be required. Indeed, support for such an approach
now seems close to overwhelming.46


In the meantime, those relatively few experts who have actually studied how
the warnings are delivered should be taken quite seriously. One such expert
reports the following:

Transcripts of modern interrogations indicate that police interrogators are
often so overwhelmingly in control of the interrogation—dictating the pace
of the questioning and the topics under discussion—that the suspect has no
practical opportunity to invoke his rights during the most critical parts of
the interrogation. In addition, the interrogator’s ability to connect with the
suspect . . . often renders the suspect unable or disinclined to break the
connection by asserting his rights. In many cases, the Miranda warnings
are therefore inadequate to counteract the pressures generated by
sophisticated interrogators.47

Sometimes, for example, the interrogator will launch directly “into the
interrogation without first asking the suspect whether he wished to waive his
rights or even whether he was willing to speak to the police.”48 Other times, the
interrogator may maintain that “she can only inform the suspect of the charges
against him and the likely disposition of the case if the suspect waives his
Miranda rights.”49 Still other times, the interrogator “may simply assert either

of the History of Interrogation Law, with Some Shots Directed at Miranda v. Arizona, 95 B.U.
L. REV. 1387, 1410 (2015) (book review). Other studies corroborate this figure. According to
one recent analysis, a study of prosecutions in the seventy-five largest counties in the country
concluded that eighty-two percent of state felony defendants were indigent and, therefore,
provided counsel by the state: “While the percentage may be somewhat lower in some states,
court-provided counsel clearly dominates in felony cases.” See WAYNE R. LAFAVE ET AL.,
CRIMINAL PROCEDURE § 11.4(f) (4th ed. 2015).

45 However, based on their prior experience as Assistant United States Attorneys, two
commentators did predict, only a year after Miranda, that many suspects would waive their
rights. See Sheldon H. Elsen & Arthur Rosett, Protections for the Suspect Under Miranda v.
Arizona, 67 COLUM. L. REV. 645, 654 (1967) (noting that “it would seem that frequent
assertion of rights by suspects is unlikely” and suggesting that “the ease of obtaining waivers
may be a partial explanation”).

46 See supra note 35 and accompanying text.
47 Welsh S. White, Miranda’s Failure to Restrain Pernicious Interrogation Practices, 99

MICH. L. REV. 1211, 1215 (2011) (footnotes omitted).
48 Leo & White, supra note 44, at 438.
49 Id. at 440 (emphasis added).


that the suspect will be in greater jeopardy if he does not waive Miranda, or that
he will receive more lenient treatment if he does.”50 Of course, none of this is

Sometimes, if the suspect cooperates, the police might even say that they will
do their best to improve the suspect’s image. In one case, in an effort to get the
suspect to waive his rights, the interrogator told him that if he did so the police
would do their best to improve his image—he would no longer be viewed as
“maniacal,”51 or as “a cold-hearted, stone killer.”52 Indeed, “if he spoke to the
police and offered an explanation for his actions,” the police told him, “he would
be viewed more favorably and in the end receive more lenient punishment from
the system.”53

We shall never know whether the world no longer considered this suspect a
cold-hearted, maniacal killer when the police finished with him. But he did
waive his Miranda rights, did make a statement admitting the killings, and was
convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the
possibility of parole.54 So in this case, as in an untold number of others, the
interrogator ultimately prevailed.

Over the decades, the Court has often (but not always) given Miranda a

grudging reception. A recent example is the case of Salinas v. Texas.55
This case seems to tell us that when a person is not in custody (and therefore

not given any Miranda warnings at all), but is asked questions by the police that
might incriminate him, he cannot simply remain silent. That is not enough. He
or she must do something more. As the three-Justice plurality opinion told us:
“A witness’ constitutional right to refuse to answer questions depends on his
reasons for doing so, and courts need to know those reasons to evaluate the
merits of a Fifth Amendment claim.”56

In response to the Salinas case, Tracey Maclin observed: “[T]he Salinas
plurality contrasts the Fifth Amendment rights of an arrestee with the Fifth

50 Id.
51 Id. at 441.
52 Id. at 443.
53 Id. at 441.
54 Id. at 444 & n.208.
55 133 S. Ct. 2174 (2013). Justice Alito wrote the principal opinion, which Chief Justice

Roberts and Justice Kennedy joined. Because Justice Thomas, joined by the late Justice
Scalia, concurred in the judgment on the ground that “[Genovevo] Salinas’ claim would fail
even if he had invoked the privilege because the prosecutor’s comments regarding his
precustodial silence did not compel him to give self-incriminating testimony,” id. at 2184
(Thomas, J., concurring), there was no opinion for the Court. Moreover, Justice Breyer, joined
by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, dissented. See id. at 2185 (Breyer, J.,

56 Id. at 2183 (plurality opinion).


Amendment rights of someone who voluntarily comes to the police station. The
arrestee enjoys a right to silence, but the citizen who freely appears at the police
station does not.”57 However, continues Maclin: “[I]f the Fifth Amendment does
not afford an absolute right to remain silent for someone like Salinas, why would
an express invocation of the Fifth Amendment matter? . . . While the plurality
opinion implies that an express invocation would make a constitutional
difference, it never explains why.”58

The essential facts of the Salinas case are as follows: Two brothers were
killed.59 There were no eyewitnesses.60 But the police found six shotgun shell
casings at the scene of the double-murder.61 The investigation led the police to
the defendant.62 Eventually, Salinas agreed to give his shotgun to the police for
shotgun testing and accompany them to the police station for questioning.63
There was general agreement that the defendant’s interview with the police at
the station lasted about one hour.64 It was also agreed that the interview was
“noncustodial”65—that is, the defendant was free to leave and was told so.66
Therefore, he was not given any Miranda warnings.67

As Richard Leo has observed, “often police detectives do not need to give any
Miranda warnings in order to interrogate criminal suspects.”68 Leo explains,
“[t]hey do this by simply telling the suspect that he is not under arrest and is free
to leave.”69 This is what happened in the Salinas case.70

At one point during the interaction with police in Salinas, the interrogator
asked the defendant “whether his shotgun ‘would match the shells recovered at
the scene of the murder.’”71 The defendant declined to answer: “Instead, [he]
‘[l]ooked down at the floor, shuffled his feet, bit his bottom lip, cl[e]nched his

57 Tracey Maclin, The Right to Silence v. the Fifth Amendment, 2016 U. CHI. LEGAL F. 255,

58 Id.
59 Salinas, 133 S. Ct. at 2178 (plurality opinion).
60 Id.
61 Id.
62 Id.
63 Id.
64 Id.
65 Id.
66 Id. at 2180.
67 Id. at 2178.
68 Richard A. Leo, False Confessions and the Constitution: Problems, Possibilities, and

(John T. Parry & L. Song Richardson eds., 2013).

69 Id.
70 I have often wondered how frequently the suspect will be allowed to leave the area if he

chooses to do so. But there seems to be no data on this.
71 Salinas, 133 S. Ct. at 2178 (plurality opinion).


hands in his lap, [and] began to tighten up.’”72 After this line of questioning, the
defendant remained silent for a few moments—the officer then proceeded to ask
other questions, which the defendant did answer.73

During his closing argument, the prosecutor reminded the jury that Salinas
had remained silent when asked about the shotgun.74 Specifically, “[t]he
prosecutor told the jury . . . that ‘an innocent person’” would not have reacted
the way Salinas did.75 Instead, an innocent person, the prosecutor told the jury,
would have said something like: “I didn’t do that. I wasn’t there.”76 But Salinas
“wouldn’t answer that question.”77 In the end, Salinas was convicted of

According to the plurality opinion by Justice Alito, the question presented
was relatively simple:

The critical question is whether under the “circumstances” of this case,
petitioner was deprived of the ability to voluntarily invoke the Fifth
Amendment. He was not. . . . [I]t would have been a simple matter for [the
defendant] to say that he was not answering the officer’s question on Fifth
Amendment grounds. Because he failed to do so, the prosecution’s use of
his noncustodial silence did not violate the Fifth Amendment.79

The plurality seemingly thought the result of the case was straightforward as
well, asserting that “a suspect who stands mute has not done enough to put police
on notice that he is relying on his Fifth Amendment privilege,”80 and stating that
one’s “constitutional right to refuse to answer questions depends on his reasons
for doing so, and courts need to know those reasons to evaluate the merits of a
Fifth Amendment claim.”81

In discussing the Salinas case, I have had the benefit of reading two first-rate
articles about this case, one by Brandon Garrett,82 and the other by Tracey
Maclin.83 As Garrett aptly observes:

The Salinas ruling . . . pos[es] special dangers for the innocent suspect.
Informal or noncustodial questioning is often not carefully documented by

72 Id.
73 Id.
74 Id.
75 Id. at 2185 (Breyer, J., dissenting) (quoting Salinas v. State, 368 S.W.3d 550, 556 (Tex.

Crim. App. 2011)).
76 Id. (quoting Salinas, 368 S.W.3d at 556).
77 Id. (quoting Salinas, 368 S.W.3d at 556).
78 Id. at 2178 (plurality opinion).
79 Id. at 2180 (emphasis added).
80 Id. at 2182.
81 Id. at 2183 (emphasis added).
82 Brandon L. Garrett, Remaining Silent After Salinas, 80 U. CHI. L. REV. DIALOGUE 116

83 Maclin, supra note 57.


police, just as in the Salinas case itself. As a result, such informal
questioning poses special dangers that false confessions may result, even
unintentionally, and may prove very difficult to uncover after the fact.84

Garrett, and even more so Leo, are worried that a number of confessions have
turned out to be false “to near or absolute certainty.”85 Maclin, too, has made an
apt observation, noting that “[t]here was no need to provide government officials
‘notice’ that Salinas was relying on the Fifth Amendment. The police knew [or
could readily have assumed] that Salinas’s answer to the question regarding the
ballistics test of the shotgun would be incriminating; that is why they asked the

One of the lawyers who took part in the Salinas Supreme Court oral
arguments was Ginger Anders, a member of the Solicitor General’s office.87 As
a general matter, Anders supported Texas’s position, but I found some of her
statements difficult to reconcile with the position taken by Texas. At one point
during oral arguments, Justice Kagan asked Anders, “[H]ow about if [the
suspect] just says, you know, I don’t really want to answer that question?”88

84 Garrett, supra note 82, at 124. Garrett is understandably troubled by the Salinas case

because rules requiring or encouraging the police to produce a record of interrogation might
be “subverted” if the police were “encouraged to question first in noncustodial and
undocumented settings.” Id. at 126.

85 See Leo, supra note 68, at 171. In a recent book, Garrett points out that of the first 250
DNA exonerees, forty innocent people had falsely confessed. See BRANDON L. GARRETT,
Consider, too, Leo’s recent comments on false confessions and wrongful convictions:

In the last two decades, scholars have documented several hundred confessions that have
been proven false to near or absolute certainty, as well as many others that are probable
or highly probable to be false. . . . No well-founded estimates have ever been published;
nor is it presently possible for social scientists to provide one. Nevertheless, because
most cases of disputed confessions are rarely publicized and likely to be unreported by
the media, unacknowledged by police and prosecutors, and unrecognized by researchers,
the documented cases of interrogation-induced false confessions almost certainly
understate the true extent of the phenomenon and are thus likely to represent only the tip
of a much larger problem.

Regardless of the frequency at which they occur, false confessions remain highly
consequential because confession evidence itself is considered such incriminating and
persuasive evidence of guilt. . . . Confessions strongly bias the perceptions and decision
making of criminal justice officials and jurors alike because most people assume that a
confession by its very nature must be true. Police, prosecutors, judges, jurors, and the
media all tend to view confessions as self-authenticating while discounting false
confessions as contrary to common sense, irrational, and self-destructive.

Leo, supra note 68, at 171 (emphasis added) (footnotes omitted).
86 Maclin, supra note 57, at 281.
87 See Supreme Court Watch: Summary of Oral Argument in Salinas v. Texas, FED.

salinas-v-texas [https://perma.cc/Q25P-9UVM].

88 Transcript of Oral Argument at 54-55, Salinas v. Texas, 133 S. Ct. 2174 (2013) (No. 12-


Anders replied: “I think, if [the suspect] expresses the desire not to answer the
question, that is sufficient because he is saying, I’m not going to answer that,
and, implicitly, he has a right not to do that.”89 Later in the questioning, Justice
Kagan asked: “[Suppose the suspect] realizes . . . that the police really do see
him as a suspect. And he says to himself, I better stop answering, right? So he
says, okay . . . I don’t want to answer any more questions. Is that an invocation
[of the privilege against self-incrimination]?”90 Anders replied: “I think that
would be sufficient, yes . . . .”91 Finally, Justice Kagan asked: “Or, if [the
suspect] says, I don’t want to answer questions about a particular topic; is that
an invocation?”92 Once again, Anders’s answer was: “I think that would be
sufficient to invoke with respect to questions on that topic.”93 At this point—I
would say—Justice Alito’s arguments collapse!

Justice Kagan was not finished. She had something more to say. But from my
vantage point, she was too gentle. All she said was: “That doesn’t sound like a
clear rule. . . . [The rule being a suspect must state] I don’t want to answer those
questions on a particular topic.”94

May suspects who are not in custody, and thus not entitled to Miranda
warnings, tell the police that certain topics are, in effect, “off limits”? According
to the Solicitor General’s Office, the answer seems to be in the affirmative.95

Justice Alito’s observation that “it would have been a simple matter for
[Salinas] to say that he was not answering the officer’s question on Fifth
Amendment grounds”96 is true—as far as it goes. But it is also true that it “would
have been a simple matter” for the police to tell Salinas that if he declined to
answer any questions on Fifth Amendment grounds all he had to do was to say

As I have already noted, at another point, Justice Alito told us that “[a]
witness’ constitutional right to refuse to answer questions depends on his reason
for doing so, and courts need to know those reasons to evaluate the merits of a
Fifth Amendment claim.”98 But there are bound to be situations where (1) the
suspect does not understand that he has a right not to be compelled to incriminate
himself and/or (2) the suspect does not realize that he is in the process of being

89 Id. at 55.
90 Id. at 56-57.
91 Id. at 57.
92 Id. (emphasis added).
93 Id. (emphasis added).
94 Id.
95 See id.
96 Salinas, 133 S. Ct. at 2180 (plurality opinion).
97 If Salinas had been in custody, as many are when they are being questioned, all the

police had to do was to give Salinas one additional warning.
98 Salinas, 133 S. Ct. at 2183 (plurality opinion).


compelled to incriminate himself. In those cases, shouldn’t somebody tell the
suspect something?


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