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Oregon v. Mathiason

Unfaithful To Miranda?

Justices Brennan, Marshall, and Stevens dissented. Justice Brennan disagreed with the Court's decision to deny oral arguments and limit its review of the case. Justice Marshall objected to the Court's strict reading of Miranda. Marshall conceded that Mathiason may not have been under arrest, "but surely formalities alone cannot control." If Mathiason "entertained an objectively reasonable belief that he was not free to leave," then he was, under the law, deprived of his freedom of action. Marshall opined that it would have been reasonable for Mathiason to believe that he was not free to leave, considering the isolated, unfamiliar setting of the patrol office.

Marshall called for a more careful reading of Miranda. "[F]aithfulness to Miranda," wrote Marshall, "requires us to distinguish situations that resemble the `coercive aspects' of custodial interrogation from those that more nearly resemble general on-the-scene questioning . . . which Miranda states usually can take place without warnings." Marshall noted that the Court's decision was based only on the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and he roguishly reminded state courts that they "remain free, in interpreting state constitutions, to guard against the evil clearly identified by this case."

Justice Stevens complained of the Court's cursory treatment of the case and raised an issue that had been ignored by the majority. Mathiason, Stevens noted, was on parole subject at the time of the questioning. Law enforcement officers have greater power to question parolees than regular citizens, and parolees are, by and large, familiar with police procedures. Considering these factors, the Miranda warning seemed inappropriate. Conversely, Mathiason's parole status may have been a factor requiring Miranda warnings. If a parolee is technically in legal custody, Stevens reasoned, "a parolee should always be warned." The landmark case of Miranda had been qualified, said Stevens, and the Court "would have a better understanding of the extent of that qualification . . . if we had the benefit of full argument and plenary consideration."

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentOregon v. Mathiason - Significance, A Violation Of Miranda?, The Court Clarifies Miranda, Unfaithful To Miranda?, Impact