Citizens' Rights: A Barrier to Justice?

Historically, the U.S. Supreme Court has tried to seek a balance between the rights of the accused and police powers to apprehend criminals. Critics assert that the exclusionary rule and Miranda warnings undermine effective law enforcement.

The exclusionary rule and the Miranda warnings should be abolished

  1. The Miranda rule blocks law enforcement from obtaining confessions during police interrogations. It sets free guilty criminals so they can victimize society again.

  2. If legal “technicalities” such as the exclusionary rule and the Miranda rule were eliminated, there would be less crime because more criminals would be locked up and restrained from preying upon the public.

  3. There are better means of enforcing constitutional protections than Miranda. One replacement for Miranda would be to videotape or record police interrogations.

  4. Miranda sends the wrong symbolic message: It is more important to protect criminals' rights than to protect innocent people.

  5. There is no empirical evidence to show that the exclusionary rule deters illegal police conduct. Expanding the legal liability of police departments and setting up compensation funds for money damages would make the police respect individual rights more than the exclusionary rule does.

  6. The costs of the exclusionary rule are too high—it impedes justice by freeing thousands of criminals each year and by establishing legal grounds for appeals that inundate appellate courts.

The exclusionary rule and the Miranda warnings should not be abolished

  1. The Miranda rule has not impeded the flow of confessions. Confessions are given as readily now as they were before Miranda.

  2. If the exclusionary rule and the Miranda rule were abolished, innocent persons would have fewer rights. It is impossible to protect the innocent without also protecting the guilty.

  3. If we eliminate Miranda, then police officers could ignore a suspect's request not to be interrogated. Miranda is necessary to protect the Fifth Amendment's prohibition against a person's being “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

  4. Miranda sends the right message: courts will not condone unlawful police conduct that produces confessions. This judicial integrity argument holds that a court should nullify and distance itself from a constitutional violation rather than admit the evidence and allow the government to profit from its own wrongdoing. This denial of court assistance to perpetuate a constitutional wrong is needed to maintain respect for the Constitution and for the independence of the judiciary.

  5. The real value of the exclusionary rule is that it offers a vision of what constitutes good police work. A good police officer is one who looks to the Constitution for guidance in defining his or her mission.

  6. The exclusionary rule is less costly than its critics assume. One study estimates that only between 0.6 and 2.35 percent of all felony arrests are lost at any stage in the arrest disposition process (including trials and appeals) because of the exclusionary rule. (The rate of lost arrests is higher in drug possession offenses, but much lower in violent crime cases.) Moreover, the costs of abandoning the exclusionary rule are too high—despite its flaws, the exclusionary rule is the best we can realistically do in enforcing Fourth Amendment rights and protecting civil liberties.

Evaluating the exclusionary rule and the Miranda rule

Both the exclusionary rule and the Miranda rule block the police from acquiring valuable evidence in some cases. But the predominating view of most academics and most law enforcement professionals is that these rules have relatively little impact on the overall ability of the police to apprehend criminals. Miranda doesn't eliminate police interrogations or confessions. In spite of the Miranda warnings, a substantial number of suspects waive their rights and continue to talk with police. Positive effects of the exclusionary rule and Miranda include increasing citizens' awareness of their constitutional rights and inspiring the police to follow the Constitution.