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Illinois v. Perkins

Compulsion Includes Police Deception

Justice Marshall dissented. He noted that the conditions that require the police to read a suspect the Miranda warnings--custodial interrogation conducted by an agent of the police--were present in Illinois v. Perkins. Because Perkins did not receive his Miranda warnings before he was subjected to custodial interrogation, his confession should be inadmissible. The majority's creation of an exception to the Miranda rule that applies when an undercover agent asks questions that may elicit an incriminating response was inconsistent with the rationale supporting Miranda, in Marshall's opinion. It allowed police officers intentionally to take advantage of suspects who are unaware of their constitutional rights.

While Perkins was confined he was subjected to express questioning likely to evoke an incriminating response. Miranda dealt with any police tactics that might compel a suspect to make incriminating statements without full awareness of his constitutional rights. The point of the Miranda warnings is to make a suspect aware of the Fifth Amendment privilege and the consequences of foregoing it. "Thus when a law enforcement agent structures a custodial interrogation so that a suspect feels compelled to reveal incriminating information, he must inform the suspect of his constitutional rights and give him an opportunity to decide whether or not to talk."

The compulsion described in Miranda includes police deception. The police deceptively took advantage of Perkins's psychological vulnerability by including him in a sham escape plot, where he would feel compelled to show his willingness to shoot a guard by discussing his past involvement in a murder. The pressure unique to custody allowed the police to use deception to compel a suspect to make incriminating statements. The suspect's ignorance of the agent's real identity did not mean compulsion was not used.

The Court's adoption of this exception to the Miranda warnings was incompatible with the principle that the doctrine should be simple and clear. The Court's ruling complicated a previously clear and straightforward doctrine. "Would Miranda be violated, for instance, if an undercover police officer beat a confession out of a suspect, but the suspect thought the officer was another prisoner who wanted the information for his own purposes?" The exception created in this case may result in police officers conducting interrogations of confined suspects through undercover agents, getting around the need to administer Miranda warnings. "The Court's adoption of the `undercover exception' to the Miranda rule thus is necessarily also the adoption of a substantial loophole in our jurisprudence protecting suspects' Fifth Amendment rights."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Illinois v. Perkins - Significance, A Coercive Atmosphere Is Lacking, Deception And Manipulation Practiced, Compulsion Includes Police Deception