Interrogation Policies

Brandon L. Garrett *

In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court discussed at length actual police policies, manuals, and training on interrogations to explain the need for the well-known warnings the Court required to precede custodial interrogations.[1] The Court noted: “A valuable source of information about present police practices . . . may be found in various police manuals and texts which document procedures employed with success in the past, and which recommend various other effective tactics.”[2] The Court cited to studies of police practices,[3] and focused on the Fred E. Inbau and John E. Reid manual on interrogations, first published in 1962, and still the authoritative treatise.[4] The Court described “tactics . . . designed to put the subject in a psychological state where his story is but an elaboration of what the police purport to know already—that he is guilty.”[5] Those tactics ranged from “Mutt and Jeff” routines to outright deception and trickery.[6]

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* © Brandon L. Garrett, 2014. Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law. Many thanks to Gregory DeClue, Richard Leo, Eve Brensike Primus, and James Trainum for their input, encouragement, and invaluable comments on earlier drafts. I particularly thank Christine Shu, Aurora Heller, and the students of the Virginia Innocence Project Student Group (VIPS), whose remarkable work and tireless efforts in obtaining policies from Virginia law enforcement made this research possible.

[1].    384 U.S. 436, 444, 448–49 (1966); see Richard A. Leo, The Impact of Miranda Revisited, 86 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 621, 672 (1996) (“[T]he Miranda rights have been so entrenched in American popular folklore as to become an indelible part of our collective heritage and consciousness.”).

[2].    Miranda, 384 U.S. at 448; see Seth W. Stoughton, Policing Facts, 88 Tul. L. Rev. 847, 855 (2014) (discussing the manuals, reports, and texts on police interrogation practices relied upon by the Supreme Court in Miranda).

[3].    Miranda, 384 U.S. at 448 & n.8 (citing various studies of police practices, including Wayne R. LaFave, Detention for Investigation by the Police: An Analysis of Current Practices, 1962 Wash. U. L.Q. 331, 335 (1962)).

[4].    Id. at 448–49 & n.9 (“The methods described in Inbau & Reid, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions . . . have had rather extensive use among law enforcement agencies. . . .”); Barry C. Feld, Behind Closed Doors: What Really Happens When Cops Question Kids, 23 Cornell J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 395, 412 (2013) (“The Reid Method remains the leading training program in the United States and underlies most contemporary interrogation practice. . . .”). See generally Fred E. Inbau et al., Criminal Interrogation and Confessions (5th ed. 2013) (describing methods of interrogation).

[5].    Miranda, 384 U.S. at 450.

[6].    Id. at 452–55. The Supreme Court reexamined police interrogation policies in Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600, 609–11 & n.2 (2004) (addressing police strategies for pre- and post-Miranda warning statements).