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Confessions and Culture: The Interaction of Miranda and Diversity

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 90 Issue: 1 Dated: Fall 1999 Pages: 1-48
Floralynn Einesman
Date Published
48 pages
This analysis of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona in 1966 notes that the court could not foresee future demographic changes and that in recent years courts nationwide have had to confront factors such as the defendant’s cultural heritage, language skills, and familiarity with the criminal justice system.
The Miranda decision openly recognized the inherent coercion of incommunicado police interrogation and acknowledged that police officers use sophisticated psychological ploys to encourage suspects to confess. The decision also used the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination rather than other amendments to protect the individual and rejected a case-by-case approach to evaluating confessions. However, the Court could not predict that millions of future immigrants would come from Latin America and Asia and that 32 million people in 1990 would report speaking a language other than English in their homes. Thus, it is not surprising that the Miranda decision made little mention of the defendant’s cultural heritage and language skills. However, the suspect’s cultural heritage and language affect every facet of Miranda. Therefore, courts throughout the country have had to consider whether and how the Miranda analysis should incorporate the defendant’s culture. Society’s new composition makes it critically important for attorneys, judges, and legal scholars to be sensitive to the roles that culture and language have in the interpretation of confession law under Miranda v. Arizona. Footnotes