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Terrorism, Miranda, and Related Matters

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Charles Doyle, Terrorism, Miranda, and Related Matters (CRS Report R41252) (Apr. 24, 2013) (full-text).


The Fifth Amendment to the U.S Constitution provides in part that

No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

In Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that statements of an accused, given during a custodial interrogation, could not be introduced in evidence in criminal proceedings against him, unless he were first advised of his rights and waived them. In Dickerson v. United States, the Court held that the Miranda exclusionary rule was constitutionally grounded and could not be replaced by a statutory provision making all voluntary confessions admissible.

In New York v. Quarles, the Court recognized a “limited” "public safety" exception to Miranda, but has not defined the exception further. The lower federal courts have construed the exception narrowly in cases involving unwarned statements concerning the location of a weapon possibly at hand at the time of an arrest.

The Supreme Court has yet to decide to what extent Miranda applies to custodial interrogations conducted overseas. The lower federal courts have held that the failure of foreign law enforcement officials to provide Miranda warnings prior to interrogation does not preclude use of any resulting statement in a subsequent U.S. criminal trial, unless interrogation was a joint venture of U.S. and foreign officials or unless the circumstances shock the conscience of the court. They suggest that warnings are a prerequisite for admissibility in U.S. courts following overseas interrogation by U.S. officials.

Miranda applies to courts-martial that are subject to a requirement for an additional warning under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The statutory provisions governing military commissions call for the admission of some unwarned, involuntary custodial statements. At least one tribunal operating under those provisions has concluded that the Fifth Amendment protections do not apply in the commission trial at Guantanamo Bay of an unprivileged foreign belligerent.

Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requires that federal arrestees be brought before a committing magistrate without unnecessary delay. In the McNabb v. United States and Mallory v. United States cases, the Supreme Court declared inadmissible confessions extracted during a period of unnecessary delay. The cases were decided under the Court's supervisory authority over the lower federal courts, and in Corley v. United States, the Court held that McNabb-Mallory had been statutorily supplemented with a provision that made admissible voluntary confession given within six hours of presentment. Neither Miranda nor McNabb-Mallory violations preclude the subsequent prosecution of the accused; they simply preclude the uninvited use of any unwarned, unwaived statements in such prosecutions.

The 111th Congress featured a number of proposals, some of which would have prohibited the use of funds to provide Miranda warnings; others would have restricted their use in the interrogation of high-value detainees overseas; and still others would have called upon the Administration to provide Congress with information related to the use of Miranda warnings in such circumstances. No comparable proposals appear to have been introduced in later Congresses.

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