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Miranda Under the Microscope Again

NCJ Number
John Wilkinson, J.D.
Date Published
October 2011
2 pages
This paper explains and draws implications of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in "Berghuis, Warden v. Thompkins," 560 U.S. (2010), which held that after properly administering the "Miranda" warning, police were not required to obtain an expressed or implied waiver of rights before interrogating a suspect; and a suspect's remaining mostly silent during an interrogation does not invoke the right to remain silent.
After being arrested for murder and attempted murder, investigating officers read Thompkins the "Miranda" warning from a preprinted form and had Thompkins read the last line of the warning out loud, establishing that he could read and understand English. The record is in conflict as to whether Thompkins was asked if he understood his rights; however, Thompkins declined to sign the form acknowledging that he had been advised of his rights and understood them. During the subsequent 3-hour interrogation, Thompkins remained silent, except for a few one-word answers to questions, one of which could be interpreted as a confession. After the trial court denied a claim that the interrogation violated Thompkins' "Miranda" rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the trial court, holding that Thompkins' persistent silence clearly indicated he did not wish to waive his right not to be interrogated. In reversing the appellate court, the U.S. Supreme Court did not significantly change the "Miranda" holding. Police must still advise individuals in custody of their "Miranda" rights prior to questioning; however, this holding does indicate that police can question a suspect without a clear indication by the suspect that he/she wishes to remain silent. As a best practice, police should still require officers to ask a suspect whether he/she wishes to speak with the police prior to questioning.