A Case of Intentionally Delayed Administration of Miranda Warnings

Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600, 124 S. Ct. 2601, 159 L. Ed. 2d 643 (2004), involves the intentionally delayed administration of Miranda warnings.

In Seibert the police in fact engaged in tactics of deliberately and intentionally withholding Miranda warnings. Specifically, the officer who questioned the suspect admitted that he intentionally withheld Miranda warnings and relied on an interrogation technique he had been taught: "question first, then give the warnings, and then repeat the question 'until I get the answer that she's already provided once.'" Id. at 606.

In a plurality opinion, four justices agreed that Miranda was violated when the officer intentionally elicited an unwarned confession and then used that unwarned confession to elicit a second warned confession.

The plurality discussed how such intentional techniques strike at the very heart of the purpose of Miranda warnings and increase the risk of inducing a coercive confession:

Just as "no talismanic incantation is required to satisfy Miranda's strictures," it would be absurd to think that mere recitation of the litany suffices to satisfy Miranda in every conceivable circumstance.

"The inquiry is simply whether the warnings reasonably 'convey to a suspect his rights as required by Miranda.'"

The threshold issue when interrogators question first and warn later is thus whether it would be reasonable to find that in these circumstances the warnings could function "effectively" as Miranda requires. Id. at 611-12 (Souter, J., plurality opinion) (quoting California v. Prysock, 453 U.S. 355, 359, 101 S. Ct. 2806, 69 L. Ed. 2d 696 (1981); Duckworth, 492 U.S. at 203).