NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Court Challenge To Miranda Ruling

February 10, 1999

A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled Monday that factors other than whether police read arrestees their Miranda rights can be used to determine if a confession is voluntary and admissible at trial.

  • The 2-1 ruling likely will be appealed to the full 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and on to the Supreme Court, according to legal observers.
  • But for now, it is the law in the circuit's five states -- Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
  • The Richmond ruling came in the case of a man who confessed he was in the get-away car following a bank robbery.

The Miranda warning grew out of a 1966 Supreme Court case, Miranda vs. Arizona, which ordered that suspects in police custody be told they can remain silent and have the right to consult a lawyer before questioning.

Prior to the 4th Circuit Court decision, courts had ruled that if the Miranda warning is not given, any confession that results cannot be used against a defendant at trial. However, in 1968 Congress passed a law allowing judges to decide whether or not a defendant's confession was voluntary and could be admitted -- even if the Miranda warning was not given. But the Justice Department has never invoked the law and last year Attorney General Janet Reno said it was unconstitutional.

Source: Tony Mauro, "Police Win Right to Remain Silent on Miranda in 5 States," USA Today, February 10, 1999.


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