Miranda Reconsidered: Supreme Court Review of Miranda Rights in United States v. Patane, Missouri v. Seibert, and Fellers v. United States
CRS Report for Congress
Miranda Reconsidered: Supreme Court Review of
Miranda Rights in United States v. Patane
Missouri v. Seibert, and Fellers v. United States
Updated July 26, 2004
Estela I. Velez Pollack
American Law Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Miranda Reconsidered: Supreme Court Review of
Miranda Rights in United States v. Patane Missouri v.
Seibert, and Fellers v. United States
The United States Supreme Court created the now well-known Miranda
warnings to preserve the right against self-incrimination provided by the Fifth
Amendment of the Constitution and the right to counsel provided by the Sixth
Amendment. These warnings provide that prior to questioning, individuals suspected
of a crime must be informed of their right to remain silent, that anything they say may
be used against them in court, that they have the right to an attorney, and if they
cannot afford one, that a lawyer will be appointed to represent them. Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S. 425 (1966). Aside from serving to inform people of their rights,
the Miranda decision is meant to guide the police and deter improper conduct.
This term the United States Supreme Court decided two cases that challenged
Miranda: United States v. Patane, and Missouri v. Seibert. In Patane, the United
States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that a firearm should be
suppressed on grounds that it was inadmissible as the ‘fruit’ of a statement obtainedth
without Miranda warnings. United States v. Patane, 304 F. 3d 1013, 1014 (10 Cir.
2002). On June 28, 2004, the Supreme Court issued its opinion reversing the circuit
court’s decision and remanding the case. The Court held that a failure to give
Miranda warnings does not require the exclusion of physical evidence derived from
a suspect’s unwarned but voluntary statements. The Court reasoned that since
Miranda warnings were designed to protect a criminal defendant’s rights under the
Fifth Amendment and the Fifth Amendment forbids compelling a defendant to testify
against himself at trial, the introduction of physical evidence obtained as a result of
voluntary statements given without Miranda warnings does not violate the Fifth
Amendment. United States v. Patane, 542 U.S. __, 72 U.S.L.W. 4643 (June 28,
In Seibert, the Missouri Supreme Court held that Mirandized confessions
following a prior intentional violation of Miranda are inadmissible in court. On June
In so doing the Court held that when police officers deliberately withhold Miranda
warnings, consequent statements are inadmissible even if Miranda warnings are later
administered, because the statements cannot be considered voluntary. Missouri v.
Seibert, 542 U.S. __, 72 U.S.L.W. 4634 (June 28, 2004)(No. 02-1371). However,
the Court left the door open for the possible admission of these statements when the
withholding of the Miranda warnings is unintentional.
A third case, United States v. Fellers, originally raised a Miranda issue, but it
was disposed by the Court on Sixth Amendment right to counsel grounds.
United States v. Patane.........................................1
Missouri v. Seibert.............................................5
Fellers v. United States.........................................8
Miranda Reconsidered: Supreme Court
Review of Miranda Rights in United States
v. Patane Missouri v. Seibert, and Fellers v.
Custodial interrogations are inherently intimidating and their tactics are geared1
towards undermining the right against self-incrimination. The Supreme Court,
recognizing this, set some concrete constitutional guidelines for law enforcement
agencies to follow when conducting custodial interrogations in Miranda v. Arizona,
Miranda rights grow out of the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent,2 and the3
Sixth Amendment right to an attorney. Miranda requires the police to advise
suspects that they have a right to remain silent; that anything the suspects say can be
used against them in a court of law; that they have a right to the presence of an
attorney; and that, if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for them
prior to any questioning if they so desire. The purpose of this rule is to make sure
that, if accused persons answer questions in an interrogation, this waiver of their right
to remain silent or to have an attorney present is one that is made freely, with
1 Miranda, 384 U.S. 436, 445 (1966).
2 The Fifth Amendment affords individuals the right against self-incrimination. It states that
“no person . . . [s]hall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”
3The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to legal counsel during all stages of the criminal
process. The Sixth Amendment also affords a criminal defendant the right to be informed
of the nature of the charges against him or her and the facts underlying those charges; the
right to compel witnesses to appear and testify; the right to confront witnesses; and the right
to a speedy and public trial by an unbiased jury. U.S. CONST. amend. VI.
knowledge of the existence of the right.4 This report discusses the Supreme Court
decisions addressing the latest Miranda challenges: United States v. Patane and
Missouri v. Seibert. The report also addresses United States v. Fellers, which
originally raised a Miranda issue, but was decided on other grounds.
United States v. Patane
Background. Patane was arrested for violating a domestic violence
restraining order. The arresting officer, who had been informed that Patane was a
convicted felon and possessed a pistol, began reading him his Miranda rights but
stopped when he was told by Patane that he knew what his rights were.5 The
arresting officer then proceeded to question Patane about his possession of a firearm.
Patane told the officer the location of the gun and was charged with being a felon in6
possession of a firearm. Patane filed a successful motion to suppress the firearm in
district court.7 On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that the
firearm should be suppressed on grounds that it was inadmissible as the ‘fruit’ of a
statement obtained without proper Miranda warnings.8
The Tenth Circuit relied on Dickerson v. United States,9 a Supreme Court case
declaring that Miranda articulated a constitutional rule that Congress may not
supersede legislatively. Moreover, since the Supreme Court had already decided in10
Wong Sun v. United States, that fruits of unconstitutional conduct require
suppression, the gun in Patane, the Tenth Circuit reasoned, must be suppressed.
In holding that the gun had to be suppressed, the Tenth Circuit distinguished1112
the instant case from Michigan v. Tucker, and Elstad, where the Supreme Court
had declined to apply the Wong Sun “fruits of the poisonous tree doctrine”13 to
suppress evidence obtained from Miranda violations, but had not referred to Miranda
4Id. at 445.
5United States v. Patane,124 S.Ct. 2620, 2625 (2004).
9530 U.S. 428 (2000).
10371 U.S. 471 (1963). In Wong Sun the Court found that the Fourth Amendment
exclusionary rule barred evidence obtained as a direct or indirect result of an unlawful
search from being admitted at trial. The Court noted that the exclusionary rule applies to
physical as well as verbal evidence.
11417 U.S. 433 (1974).
12470 U.S. 298 (1985).
13“Fruit of the poisonous tree” is the doctrine that evidence discovered due to information
found through illegal search or other unconstitutional means, such as a forced confession,
may not be introduced by a prosecutor. The theory is that the ‘tree’, or the initial illegal
evidence, is poisoned and thus taints what grows from it.
as a constitutional right.14 The court reasoned that Tucker and Elstad were based on
the view that Miranda announced a prophylactic rule, a position that is incompatible
with Dickerson’s announcement of a constitutional rule.15 The court found that the
failure to give Miranda warnings equated to a violation of the Constitution and the
“fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine applied.16 The government petitioned the
United States Supreme Court and the Court granted certiorari.17 On June 28, 2004,
the Court reversed the circuit court’s decision and remanded the case.18
Holding. The issue in Patane was whether the weapon that the police were
able to locate as a result of Patane’s non-Mirandized statements was admissible in
court. Justice Thomas announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an
opinion for the Court in which Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Scalia joined.
Justice Kennedy, joined by Justice O’Connor, filed an opinion concurring in
judgement. Justice Souter, joined by Justices Stevens and Ginsberg, and Justice
In the plurality opinion, Justice Thomas noted that the purpose of the Fifth
Amendment, Self-Incrimination Clause, is to protect an individual from being
compelled to testify against himself and that the Miranda warnings are designed to
protect this right. Therefore, a failure to give Miranda warnings should only require
the exclusion of resulting statements and not any physical evidence that may have
been obtained as a result of the statements.19
Justice Thomas reasoned that the Miranda rule “is a prophylactic employed to
protect against violations of the Self-Incrimination Clause.” However, the Self-
Incrimination Clause is not violated by the admission into evidence of physical20
evidence obtained as a result of a voluntary statement. Furthermore, the Miranda
rule, along with a number of other prophylactic rules designed to protect the core21
privilege against self-incrimination, sweeps beyond the actual protections of the
14United States v. Patane, 304 F.3d 1013, 1020-1022 (10th Cir. 2002).
15Patane, 124 S.Ct. at 2625-26.
16Id. The court also distinguished Elstad in that it involved statements made prior to
Miranda warnings that were repeated after the reading of the warnings. The court reasoned
that Elstad did not exclude the post-Miranda statement in Patane because it was willingly
offered by the defendant who already knew his rights and made the statements out of his
own volition. The Supreme Court did not find that distinction relevant. Id. at n.2.
17Patane, 123 S.Ct. 1788.
18United States v. Patane, 542 U.S. __ , 124 S.Ct. 2620 (2004).
19Patane, 124 S.Ct. at 2626.
21Id. at 2627, citing, United States v. Balsys, 524 U.S. 666, 671-672 (1998); Minnesota v.
Murphy, 465 U.S. 420, 426 (1984) (holding that the Government may compel grand jury
testimony from witnesses invoking the Fifth Amendment if the witness is given immunity);
United States v. Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27, 37 (2000) (holding that potential suspects may assert
the privilege against self-incrimination in proceedings outside of the trial where their
clause.22 Therefore, only a real necessity for the protection of the actual right against
compelled self-incrimination can justify any further extension of the Miranda
rights.23 Consequently, the plurality decided against expanding the Miranda rule to
include physical evidence.
Furthermore, the plurality disagreed with the circuit court’s reasoning that the
gun had to be suppressed since the Miranda rule is a constitutional right and the
fruits of unconstitutional conduct are inadmissible.24 Instead, the plurality stated
that the determination that the self-incrimination clause does not extend to physical
evidence is consistent with the Court’s prior characterization of Miranda as a
constitutional rule.25 The lead opinion clarified that a mere failure to give Miranda
warnings does not violate an individual’s constitutional rights or the Miranda rule
itself since the right against self-incrimination is a “fundamental trial right.”26 This,
the plurality stated, is consistent with both the pre-Dickerson and post-Dickerson line
of cases. Therefore, the plurality reasoned, the Miranda rule is not a code for police
conduct and the police do not violate the Constitution by a failure, negligent or
deliberate, to warn.27 Potential violations of the rule could only occur when
unwarned statements are actually introduced in court.28 Any Miranda violation can
be sufficiently remedied by the exclusion of the unwarned statements.29 Thus, unlike
the Fourth Amendment or an actual violation of the Self-Incrimination Clause there
is nothing to deter, i.e. police conduct, with respect to failures to warn.30
Consequently, there is no reason to apply the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine.31
Justice Kennedy, joined by Justice O’Connor, concurred with Justice Thomas
only as to the judgment. Kennedy agreed with the plurality’s reasoning that
admitting physical evidence does not run the risk of violating the Self-Incrimination
Clause. Kennedy departs from the plurality’s reasoning on two grounds: (1) that it
was unnecessary to decide whether the detective’s failure to give the full Miranda
warning constituted a violation of the Miranda rule, and (2) that it was unnecessary
to decide whether there is something to deter, i.e. police conduct, with respect to a
failure to give Miranda warnings.
answers may be used to incriminate them in a subsequent criminal case).
23Id. at 2628.
24Id. See Patane, supra, 304 F. 3d 1013.
26Id. at 2628-29, citing Winthrowv. Williams, 507 U.S. 680, 691 (1993)(quoting United
States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259, 264 (1990)).
27Id. at 2629.
29Id., citing Chavez, 538 U.S. 760, 790 (2003 ).
30Id. at 2629.
Considering that Patane does not have a majority opinion, it may still be
difficult to ascertain how the Court will apply the Miranda rule in other Fifth
Amendment contexts. However, in looking for a common nucleus between the
plurality opinion and Justice Kennedy’s opinion, one holding may be controlling in
future cases: admission of non-testimonial physical evidence does not run the risk of
violating the Self-Incrimination Clause. Neither opinion embraced or repudiated the
holding in Dickerson that Miranda is a constitutional right. They did clarify though
that a failure to give Miranda warnings does not by itself violate an individual’s
Missouri v. Seibert
Background. The facts in Seibert are similar to those in Patane. One
morning Seibert found one of her sons who was severely handicapped dead in her
trailer. He had died while sleeping. Seibert did not report the death to the authorities
because she was afraid of being accused of neglect.32 As a cover up, another of her
sons and a friend decided to set the trailer on fire. It was decided that another friend
who lived with them should be in the trailer so it would not seem like the son had33
been left alone.
The arson did not go as planned and the friend left in the trailer died.34 The
police, who suspected Seibert was involved in the death of the friend, decided to put
pressure on Seibert and approached her while she was at her son’s bedside in the
hospital. The officers intentionally did not give her Miranda warnings.35 Seibert,
after initially denying any involvement in the fire, admitted knowledge of the fire and
that the friend was intended to die in the fire. The police took a short break and then
gave Miranda warnings. Seibert again stated that she had knowledge of the fire and
that she intended the friend to die in the fire.36
At trial the lower court suppressed the pre-Miranda statements but admitted the37
post-Miranda statements. The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the lower
court’s determination that the second confession was admissible. It based its38
decision on Elstad, supra. On appeal, the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the
appellate court’s finding that the second confession was admissible. It found that39
there was an intentional Miranda violation. According to the Missouri Supreme
Court, once there is an intentional Miranda violation, the court must examine the
32Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. __, 124 S.Ct. 2601, 2605 (2004).
33Id. at 2605-06.
34Id. at 2606.
38Id. at 2606-07.
39Id. at 2607.
record to determine whether the ensuing confession is voluntary.40 Finding the
second confession involuntary the court reversed the conviction.41 The Missouri
Supreme Court distinguished Elstad in that the confession in that case was not part
of a premeditated tactic.42 The Missouri Supreme Court was divided 4-3 and the
dissenters argued that the case was not distinguishable from Elstad in that there was
no evidence that the police officer used any deliberately coercive tactics in eliciting
Seibert’s confession and, therefore, no evidence to support the majority’s
presumption that the officer was trying to weaken Seibert’s ability to exercise her
constitutional rights knowingly and voluntarily.
Missouri petitioned the United States Supreme Court and the Court granted
certiorari.43 On June 28, 2004, the Court issued an opinion affirming the lower
Holding. The issue in Seibert was whether the Miranda rule that requires the
giving of warnings at the beginning of an interrogation should be abrogated in favor
of making the warning optional. Justice Souter, joined by Justices Stevens, Ginsberg,
and Breyer, delivered an opinion and announced the judgment for the Court. Justice
Kennedy filed an opinion concurring in judgment. Justice Breyer filed a concurring
opinion. Justice O’Connor, joined by Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, filed
a dissenting opinion.
The plurality criticized what appears to be a law enforcement tactic of
questioning suspects where the officers conduct a two-stage interrogation. This tactic
consists of interrogating suspects without giving them Miranda warnings and at any
point afterwards, usually after a confession, give the Miranda warnings and ask the
suspect to repeat what they just said. This would allow officers to repeat any
subsequent incriminating statements in court.45 The plurality found that the objective46
of this tactic is to “render Miranda warning ineffective;” and that it would be
“absurd to think that mere recitation of the litany [of the Miranda warnings] suffices47
to satisfy Miranda in every conceivable circumstance.”
However, the plurality left the door open for some statements resulting from a
question first and warn later scenario admissible at court. The plurality distinguished
this case from their prior holding in Elstad, supra, where the plurality held admissible
43Seibert, 123 S.Ct. 209 (2004).
44Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. __ (2004).
45Seibert, 124 S.Ct. at 2608-09, citing, Police Law Institute, Illinois Police Manual 83 (Jan
46Id. at 2610.
statements obtained after an initial un-Mirandized admission.48 In Elstad the
defendant, after engaging in a conversation with the arresting police, made an
incriminating statement prior to the administration of Miranda warnings. The police
then administered the Miranda warnings, and he made additional incriminating
statements. The issue in that case was whether the defendant’s statement post-
Miranda warnings must be suppressed as the fruit of the prior Miranda violation.49
The Court held that suppression of the statements was not necessary because they had
been made voluntarily after the administration of the Miranda warnings.50
In distinguishing Elstad the plurality in Seibert noted that the failure to give the
initial Miranda warnings in that case was a good-faith mistake and not intentional.
Therefore, the plurality concluded that when interrogators question first and warn
later, the test is whether it would be reasonable to find that, under the circumstances,
the warnings effectively advised the suspect that he or she had a real choice about
giving a statement at that time.51 The plurality effectively left the door open for some
statements resulting from a question first and warn later scenario to be used in
evidence. To be admissible the prosecution would need to show that the police were
not trying to circumvent Miranda when they were questioning the suspect.52 To
facilitate said determination, the plurality set out a series of relevant facts to consider:
(1) the completeness and detail of the questions and answers in the first round of
interrogation; (2) the overlapping content of the two statements; (3) the timing and
setting of the first and second statements; (4) the continuity of police personnel; and
(5) the degree to which the interrogator’s questions treated the second round as
Justice Breyer wrote that a simple rule should apply to the two-stage
interrogation technique: “fruits” of initial unwarned questioning should be excluded
unless the failure to warn was in good faith.54 Breyer clarified that the plurality’s
approach will function in practice as a test to determine if the Miranda warnings
given were effective.
Justice Kennedy concurring in the judgment agreed with the plurality opinion
that statements obtained through a question-first-warn-later technique are
inadmissible since this interrogation technique is designed to circumvent Miranda.55
However, Kennedy viewed the plurality’s test as too broad.56 He disagreed that the
test should be applied in every instance of a question-first-warn-later scenario.
48Elstad, 470 U.S. at 311-313.
51Seibert, 124 S.Ct. at 2610.
52Id. at 2612-13.
54Id. at 2613.
55Id. at 2614.
56Id. at 2616.
Kennedy would apply the test more narrowly only when the two-step interrogation
Considering that there was no true majority in Seibert, we must look for the
common point between the lead opinion and the two concurring opinions to try to
ascertain how the Court is most likely to approach future similar cases. The common
ground between all three opinions is that in cases where there is an intentional use
of a question-first-warn-later interrogation technique a test will be used to determine
the effectiveness of the Miranda warnings and, therefore, the admissibility of the
statement. This test will look for certain specific circumstances occurring between
the unwarned and the warned questioning: a lapse in time, a change in location or
interrogation officer, and a shift in the focus of the questioning. No bright-line rule
making inadmissible all statements resulting from a question-first warn-later scenario
was issued by the Court. Instead, the determination of admissibility will most likely
be made on a case-by-case basis based on the facts of each case.
Fellers v. United States
A third case58 considered by the Court this term initially thought to impact
Miranda is Fellers v. United States.59 However, the Court disposed of it on Sixth
Amendment right to counsel grounds rather than the Fifth Amendment. A brief
summary of that case is included below.
Background. Following his indictment, two police officers arrived at Feller’s
house with a warrant for his arrest. They told him they wanted to discuss his
involvement with drugs and his association with certain people. They did not read
him his Miranda rights. Fellers in turn admitted that he associated with the people60
in question and that he had used methamphetamine. The officers took Fellers to
jail, where, they informed him of his Miranda rights. Fellers signed a written waiver61
and then repeated the statements made at his home.
The magistrate judge suppressed both statements but the district court later
ruled that only the first statement should be suppressed The Court of Appeals for
the Eight Circuit agreed with the district court, finding that the statement made at the
jail was a voluntary statement knowingly made after waiving his Miranda rights.62
The court based its decision on the Supreme Court’s holding in Oregon v. Elstad,
58A fourth case, Yarborough v. Alvarado, 124 S.Ct. 2140 (2004), also included a Miranda
issue. However, that case came to the Court as a writ of habeas corpus which looks at the
propriety of the state court’s application of the law rather than answering or clarifying a
question of law.
59124 S.Ct. 1019 (2004).
60United States v. Fellers, 285 F. 3d 721, 723 (8th Cir. 2002).
470 U.S. 298 (1985)63, that even if the first statement was a result of a Miranda
violation a subsequent Mirandized statement is admissible.64 Fellers petitioned the
Supreme Court and the Court granted certiorari.65 Two issues were presented: (1)
whether the initial statement was inadmissible under the Sixth Amendment because
the statement was made without Miranda warnings66; and (2) whether, under the
Fifth Amendment the statements made after administration of the Miranda warnings
should be suppressed as fruits of the initial un-Mirandized statement. On January 26,
2004, the Court issued its opinion reversing the court of appeals’ judgment and
remanding the case for further proceeding consistent with the Court’s decision.67
Holding. In reversing the lower court’s decision, the Court noted that the Sixth
Amendment right to counsel is triggered at or right after the time judicial proceedings68
are initiated against an accused. The Court had also previously held that an accused
is denied his Sixth Amendment protections “when there [is] used against him at his
trial evidence of his own incriminating words, which federal agents . . . deliberately
elicited from him after he had been indicted and in the absence of counsel.”69 This
is known as the deliberate-elicitation standard. Under this standard statements
deliberately elicited from an accused who is already being represented by counsel
without first obtaining a valid waiver of that counsel’s presence during the
interrogation are inadmissible during the prosecution’s case-in-chief.70 Excluding71
these statements serves to protect the integrity and fairness of the criminal trial. For
post-indictment statements to be admissible the government must show that the
accused voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently relinquished his Sixth Amendment
right to counsel.72
In this case, the Court held that the officers had deliberately elicited information
from Fellers. The Court focused on several facts including that the officers had come
to Fellers’ house and informed him that their purpose of coming was to discuss his
involvement with the distribution of drugs; and the discussion had taken place
outside the presence of counsel after Fellers had been indicted. Applying the
63A discussion of the facts in Elstad is included under the section discussing United States
64Id. at 724.
65Fellers, 123 S.Ct. 1480.
66As stated previously, Miranda rights grow out of both the Fifth Amendment right against
self-incrimination and Sixth Amendment right to counsel. In this instance the Supreme
Court, in granting certiorari, chose to focus on the Sixth Amendment aspect of Miranda.
67Fellers, 124 S.Ct. 1019.
68Id., citing Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 682, 689 (1972).
69Id.,quoting Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201, 206 (1964).
70Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201 (1964); see also, Michigan v. Harvey, 494 U.S.
344 (1990); Maine v. Moulton, 474 U.S. 159 (1985); United States v. Henry, 447 U.S. 264
71Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 431, 446 (1984).
72Harvey, 494 U.S. at 348-349.
deliberate-elicitation standard, the Court held that Feller’s Sixth Amendment rights
had been violated by admitting the first statement.
The Court distinguished this case from the Fifth Amendment custodial
interrogation line of cases where the right only attaches upon actual interrogation.73
The Court had previously held that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel exists even
when there is no interrogation and the Fifth Amendment does not apply.74 In this
case, the Court held that the lower court improperly conducted a “fruits of the
poisonous tree”75 analysis under the Fifth Amendment instead of the Sixth
Amendment because it had erroneously held that Fellers’ Sixth Amendment rights
had not been violated. The Court, however, did not decide the issue of whether the
incriminating statements are admissible after a knowing and voluntary waiver of the
right to counsel notwithstanding an earlier questioning in violation of the Sixth
Amendment right to counsel. Therefore, the Court remanded the case back to the
lower court to address the admissibility of Feller’s second statement after holding
that those statements were the fruit of previous questioning conducted in violation
of the Sixth-Amendment deliberate-elicitation standard.76
73The Court did not address the Fifth Amendment aspect of the case as it decided it based
on the Sixth Amendment.
74Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625, 632, n.5 (1986).
75The “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine is explained in the discussion under United
States v. Patane.
76Under Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298 (1985), the voluntariness of a statement found to
be the fruit of an un-Mirandized statement is evaluated independently.