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Analysis of the Components of the Miranda Warnings

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice Volume: 7 Issue: 3 Dated: 2007 Pages: 59-76
Jeffrey L. Helms PsyD
Date Published
18 pages
This study examined the differences among Miranda warnings used in various jurisdictions across the United States.
Analyses of juvenile and adult cards/forms with Miranda warnings in various jurisdictions showed that they differed significantly in stating the five "prongs" of the Miranda warnings. The findings support those of Grisso (1981, 1998b) and Helms and Holloway (2006) in showing that individuals' understanding varied significantly when reading the four main warnings/prongs of Miranda. The findings also show that the inclusion of additional information, such as ancillary rights and preambles, increases the difficulty in understanding the Miranda warnings. At the very least, the inclusion of extra material beyond the core provisions of Miranda distracts from the key rights stated. The Miranda cards/forms for juveniles were significantly more difficult to read than the adult cards/forms. When combined with research that shows differing capabilities among individuals in their ability to understand Miranda warnings, as well as the stress of receiving the warnings in the context of an interrogation, this study shows the difficulty of establishing that a suspect, particularly a juvenile, clearly understood the Miranda warnings prior to waiving the rights inherent in the warnings. This study collected adult and juvenile Miranda warning cards issued to field officers in all 50 States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and several Federal agencies. Readability was tested with the Flesch-Kincaid Grade level and Flesch Reading Ease methods. These methods involve counting words, syllables, and sentences in a passage. 4 tables, 2 figures, and 15 references