Coerced Confessions and the Fourth Amendment

73 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2006

See all articles by Michael Mannheimer

Michael Mannheimer

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law


Coerced confessions in State criminal prosecutions have been thought to implicate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment. However, pursuant to Graham v. Connor, if an interest is addressed by one of the specific clauses of the Bill of Rights that has been incorporated against the States, only the standards associated with that provision - and not the more generalized notions of due process - apply to a claim that that interest has been infringed. Accordingly, one might think that the law of coerced confessions is governed entirely by the Self-Incrimination Clause. However, by its very terms, the Self-Incrimination Clause forbids a State only from forcing a person to be "a witness against himself." Thus, the Clause is violated, if ever, only at trial, and the victim of police torture whose statements are never used against him or her would have no constitutional redress.

In this Article, Mr. Mannheimer argues that the coerced confession should be seen primarily as a Fourth Amendment event: it is the product of an unreasonable continuing seizure of the suspect, and, in addition, the product of an unreasonable search of his or her mind. Mr. Mannheimer further argues that, utilizing a Fourth Amendment reasonableness analysis in the coerced-confession context, courts would have to address whether exigent circumstances or an especial police need for a confession renders reasonable an interrogation that might otherwise be deemed coercive. In such a case, the resulting confession would still be "compelled" within the meaning of the Self-Incrimination Clause and would be inadmissible at trial. However, because no constitutional violation has occurred in obtaining the confession, any derivative evidence discovered as a result is not tainted as "fruit of the poisonous tree," and is therefore admissible.

Keywords: Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, Coerced Confessions, Involuntary confessions, Interrogations, Miranda, Self-Incrimination

Suggested Citation

Mannheimer, Michael, Coerced Confessions and the Fourth Amendment. Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, Vol. 30, pp. 57-129, Fall 2002, Available at SSRN:

Michael Mannheimer (Contact Author)

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law ( email )

Nunn Hall
Highland Heights, KY 41099
United States

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