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At What Price Will We Obtain Confessions?

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 71 Issue: 5 Dated: (February-March 1988) Pages: 254-258
J H Kaci; G E Rush
Date Published
5 pages
This article examines and analyzes a number of U.S. Court decisions focusing on the voluntary waiver of a suspect's Miranda rights and points out that Miranda protections might be jeopardized by the Court's apparent shift in what is considered to be voluntary.
The fifth amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the accused from self-incrimination. In Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that before custodial interrogations, police must inform suspects of their constitutional rights. Miranda warnings usually include these elements, delivered orally or in writing: the right to remain silent, the right to counsel during questioning, the right to counsel even if the accused cannot afford to pay one, and the awareness that any statement made by the accused may be used against him or her in court. If the accused waives Miranda rights, he or she may refuse to give further information at any time during the interrogation. If the accused waives his or her Miranda rights, the waiver must be made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. To show that a confession was made voluntarily, those conducting an in-custody interrogation must provide documentary proof that there was no involuntary self-incrimination. The authors examine the 1985 case of Oregon v. Elkins in which the Court held that the failure to comply properly with the warning requirements of Miranda does not automatically taint all subsequent confessions. The authors assert that the Elkins decision signals an erosion of the true standard of voluntariness. In reviewing several other recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions relating to the voluntariness standard for adults and juveniles, the authors express concern about certain police practices used in obtaining confessions. They assert that trickery, deceit, false promises, and offers of leniency abuse a citizen's rights when used to obtain a confession. 64 footnotes.