Thursday, July 13, 2017
This symposium asks us to reflect upon the fifty years after Miranda v. Arizona was handed down and to assess what impact Miranda had on law enforcement in this country. More colloquially, it asks whether, on balance, Miranda has been “good news” or “bad news” for the police. As I began to work on answering this question, however, I was troubled by the assumptions seemingly lurking within that question: (1) the assumption that Miranda has mattered at all to the police, (2) the assumption that it has mattered because it has somehow changed the behavior of police and/or the behavior of suspects, and (3) the assumption that, because of those changes, Miranda must have either helped or hampered the ability of the police to do their jobs successfully. All of those assumptions are worth questioning and, in fact, must be questioned if the underlying question is to be answered accurately and completely.
In this article, therefore, I examine the assumptions behind the question whether Miranda has had a net positive or net negative impact on the police. After a brief overview of the Miranda decision in Part I, I set out to answer three questions. In Part II, I examine whether Miranda has impacted police behavior at all. Specifically, I analyze whether the police have complied with both the “letter” and the “spirit” of Miranda, or whether the police have managed to circumvent the requirements set forth in the decision. In Part III, I address whether Miranda has impacted the behavior of suspects: whether and how often they appear to understand the protections of Miranda and how often they choose to avail themselves of those protections or waive them entirely. In Part IV, I discuss whether Miranda offers the police any benefits or whether it undermines effective interrogation practices and thus the ability to secure the convictions of guilty suspects. I conclude the article by arguing that, on balance, Miranda has been far more beneficial than detrimental to the police in the United States, that its protections have been largely meaningless or unclaimed by all but the most experienced criminals, and that, consequently, it has hampered the pursuit of justice as a whole.