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Missouri v. Seibert


The defendant was arrested for participating in a murder. The officers specifically refrained from providing her with Miranda warnings and took her to the police station. After 30 to 40 minutes or interrogation, she admitted to her role in the crime. The officers gave the defendant a short break, turned on a tape recorder, provided her Miranda warnings, and obtained a signed waiver of those protections. The officer then resumed questioning the defendant and she repeated her admissions. The officer testified that he made a “conscious decision” to withhold Miranda warnings from the defendant; using an interrogation technique he had been taught.


Whether Miranda warnings provided to the defendant after being placed in custody and thoroughly questioned are adequate?


No. Such “question-first” interrogation tactics invalidate subsequent Miranda warnings.


The purpose of the “question-first” tactic is to seek a particularly opportune moment to provide the warnings after the confession has already been secured. By withholding warnings until after a successful interrogation, they become ineffective in preparing the suspect for the follow up interrogation. The Court found that this “question-first” tactic is likely to lead to confusion on the part of the suspect because of the “perplexity about the reason for discussing the rights as that point, bewilderment being an unpromising frame of mind for knowledgeable discussion.”

This case is different from Oregon v. Elstad. In Elstad the Court held that an officer’s initial failure to warn was an “oversight” rather than a deliberate design. The connection between the first (pre-Miranda warnings) and second (post-Miranda warnings) interviews with the police was “speculative and attenuated.” In Elstad, the questioning at a station house was significantly different from the short conversation that occurred in the defendant’s house. In the case at hand, the pre-Miranda interrogation occurred at the station house and the question was methodical and extensive. At the conclusion of the interrogation, most of the incriminating statements had been divulged. The defendant was only allowed 15 to 20 minutes for a break and the post-Miranda interrogation transpired in the same location.


542 U.S. 600, 124 S. Ct. 2601 (2004)

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