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Court's Recent Miranda Rulings Won't Have Broad Impact

Publication Date: 
August 02, 2010
Daily Journal
Lawrence Hurley

Although the U.S. Supreme Court issued three much-discussed rulings last term trimming back the protections for defendants during police interrogations, criminal lawyers say they are unlikely to have much impact on the ground.

Professor Robert Weisberg is quoted in the Daily Journal on the effects, both in the courts and on the streets, of three-rulings issued by the U.S. Supreme Court limiting the protections for defendants during police investigations. Lawrence Hurley filed this story:

A combination of police using their interviewing expertise to skirt the law, defendants realizing they have a right not to talk and the narrow issues tackled by the justices mean the three decisions will affect only a small number of cases, according to both prosecutors and defense attorneys.

All three somewhat narrowed the protections afforded to defendants by the landmark 1966 case, Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, in the which the court first held that interrogators had to inform a suspect of his 5th Amendment right to an attorney before conducting an interview. If the defendant does not ask for a lawyer, the statements can be used at trial only if he voluntarily waives his right to counsel.


In questioning how much impact the three cases will have, Robert Weisberg, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law School, said the Supreme Court is focused more on judges than the police.

The recent cases constitute "love letters to lower courts" rather than instructions to police officers, he said. The Supreme Court often calls federal appellate courts to task, especially the 9th Circuit, for second guessing state court findings in criminal cases when defendants file habeas corpus petitions.

Police interrogators know how to "comply with Miranda while exploiting the situation to solicit confessions," he said.

Ultimately, in a small number of cases, defendants might be a little worse off, but "it could be that the police won't take this as a license to investigate more aggressively," Weisberg said.