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Working Paper #11

The Statute that Time Forgot
18 U.S.C. 3501 and the Overhauling of Miranda


Abstract: Miranda has been criticized by conservative scholars and jurists for 33 years, but the most powerful attack unexpectedly appeared earlier this year. On February 8, 1999, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit handed down its landmark opinion in United States v. Dickerson, concluding that Miranda no longer governs federal cases. Instead, a statute passed by Congress in 1968 - often called simply 3501 - requires the admission of all "voluntary" confessions without regard to technical compliance with the Miranda procedures. The court's opinion prompted considerable reaction from Miranda's supporters across the country. Professor Yale Kamisar, perhaps the nation's leading defender of Miranda, called the decision "stunning" and a "body blow" to the Warren Court's ruling. This article contends the Court should uphold 3501 against constitutional challenge and apply it, rather than Miranda, as the governing standard for admitting confessions in federal courts. The article further explores why the Department of Justice has refused to defend 3501 a decision the Fourth Circuit said elevated 'politics over law'.

Paul G. Cassell is a professor at the University of Utah College of Law. (He is also the author of Working Paper #11: The Statute That Time Forgot: 18 U.S.C. 3501 and the Overhauling of Miranda for the Independent Institute.)

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