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Handout 4-A:

You have been assigned to Group A. You will be studying the case of Dickerson v. United States (2000).


1. Review the facts of the case and make sure everyone in your group understands them.

2. Classify the arguments made in this case using a separate handout, Handout #5A: Classifying Arguments in the Dickerson Case.

3. Answer the questions at the bottom of this handout, which ask for your opinions about the case and how you think the Supreme Court decided it.

Facts of the Case:

In 1968, federal law enforcement officials followed a man suspected of driving the getaway car in a bank robbery in Virginia to his home in Takoma Park, Maryland. He refused to let them search his apartment, but while they were there, they noticed a large wad of money on his bed. Though he would not allow the search, he did agree to go with police to headquarters, where they questioned him and told him they had gotten a warrant to search his home. He confessed to having been the driver of a getaway car in a number of bank robberies. Later he claimed that he was not read his Miranda rights in a timely manner.

How the Case Traveled Through the Courts:

Dickerson's lawyers argued his case to the United States District Court, which agreed that Dickerson had not been read his Miranda rights in a timely manner. As a result, the U.S. District Court threw out his confession and the evidence found in his apartment. (The court applied the exclusionary rule.)

The case was appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. That court cited a section of the federal Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968 that was passed by members of Congress who disagreed with Miranda. The law said that Miranda warnings should be just one of several factors considered when determining whether confessions are voluntary and admissible in court. (The factors were: whether any warnings were given, the time between the arrest and confession, whether the suspect knew with certainty that he could request a lawyer.) The law said a confession could still be used in court even if police "misstepped" in just one of these steps in the investigation. The important issue was whether the confession was voluntary, not whether the suspect had been read his or her Miranda warnings. However, that section of the law had been largely ignored for 30 years because both Democrats and Republicans questioned its constitutionality. When Dickerson's case reached the Fourth Circuit Court, the court brought that law to the forefront of the debate. The Court said that "technical violations" of Miranda should no longer result in the inadmissibility of evidence )as long as there is other evidence that the confession was voluntary). They reversed the decision of the trial court.

Dickerson appealed to the Supreme Court and they agreed to hear the case. The justices had to decide whether to let the decision made by the Fourth Circuit stand, which would overturn the precedent that requires law enforcement officials to read Miranda warnings to all suspects in custodial interrogations.

1. Be sure that all members of your group understand the facts of the case. Discuss the facts, if necessary.

2. Complete Handout #5A: Classifying Arguments in the Dickerson Case to help you learn about the key arguments on both sides of the case.

3. Discuss the following questions with your group and write down your answers.

  • What would we decide in this case if we were Supreme Court justices?

  • What do we think are the strongest arguments supporting our decision?

  • What do we think the Supreme Court did decide in this case? Why do we think the Court decided this way?

You may find it helpful to go back to Handout #3: Miranda v. Arizona (1966) and Related Precedent Cases as you discuss these questions.

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