It’s Not Just About 'Miranda': Determining the Voluntariness of Confessions in Criminal Prosecutions
45 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2011
Date Written: 2006
Although Miranda has had a major impact on the admissibility of interrogations, it may come as a surprise to many readers that Miranda has not completely eliminated the pre-1966 rules of voluntariness by any means. In fact, the voluntariness standard is still applicable in a large number of cases today that discuss police interrogations and which do not focus on Miranda warnings as the main issue. This Article evaluates the law on voluntariness by examining several major United States Supreme Court decisions on point and then summarizes the way in which state and federal judges continue to construe and apply the “totality of the circumstances” standard. Several factors arise across the trial court decisions, including acts of deception, threats, promises, duration of interrogation, and the individual defendant’s characteristics, such as age and intelligence. Due to the seemingly endless list of factors and differing weights accorded to each throughout the courts, this due process test offers almost no guidance for lawyers and judges. The messy and ineffective rules of voluntariness that pervaded the 1950s and 1960s are just as poorly and inconsistently applied today.
Keywords: Miranda, due process, interrogation, voluntary, totality, circumstances, deception, threat, age, intelligence
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