Waiving Goodbye to Miranda: Better Protection for Mentally Ill and Mentally Retarded People is Better for Us All
46 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2012
Date Written: March 19, 2012
In 1966, the Supreme Court decided Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, to protect criminal suspects from compelled self incrimination during inherently coercive custodial interrogations. Although the Supreme Court has gradually narrowed its Miranda decision, suspects must still generally understand each of the four Miranda warnings to validly waive their Miranda rights and confess. While most people do understand the Miranda warnings, there is a large number of people, including most mentally ill and mentally retarded people, who simply do not understand the warnings. Thus, one would expect courts to normally find the waiver of Miranda rights by mentally ill and mentally retarded people to be invalid. But that is not the case.
In a survey of Courts of Appeals cases involving mentally ill and mentally retarded defendants, all were found to have knowingly and intelligently waived their Miranda rights. The Courts of Appeals has set such a low bar for waiving Miranda rights that mentally ill and mentally retarded people are no longer protected from compelled self incrimination during custodial interrogations. Change is needed to better protect these vulnerable people. The change that best protects mentally ill and mentally retarded people is excluding all custodial confessions while allowing the physical fruits of voluntary custodial statements as evidence. This change balances our right against compelled self incrimination with the interests of justice, better protecting us all.
Keywords: mental illness, mental retardation, fifth amendment, criminal law, self incrimination, Miranda, waiver, confession
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