It seemed so clear a half-century ago. After years of frustration reviewing the voluntariness of confessions on a case-by-case basis, a Supreme Court majority in Miranda v. Arizona held that incriminating statements resulting from interrogation while in custody would not be admissible at trial to prove guilt unless warnings were given to advise a suspect of rights of silence and an attorney. It is disappointing to report that if anything has been established over the past 50 years, it is that this mandate isn't clear at all. It turns out that police officers do not necessarily give exactly the warnings suggested by Chief Justice Warren back then. Although a person formally under arrest is no doubt in custody, many other individuals questioned by uniformed and armed law enforcement officers may not be viewed as being in custody.

This article looks at the confusion created by the direction that restrictions imposed by the Supreme Court apply only when a suspect in custody is being interrogated. The notion of interrogation has become muddled and has been applied inconsistently. This short piece is not aimed at the broad policy concerns regarding Miranda, nor whether the definition found in the case itself, as written back in 1967, is misleading. Rather, the key consideration here goes to how the concept of interrogation is working on the ground; that is, are law enforcement officers and courts using this term in any sort of uniform and understandable fashion?

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2020

Publication Information

69 Catholic University Law Review 445-471 (2020)