Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Miranda Does Not Apply at Sentencing

US v. Nichols: Nichols was charged with bank robbery, armed bank robbery, and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence after he robbed a bank. During the robbery, he threatened to shoot the teller, but nobody saw a gun. Nichols and his father made arrangements to turn himself in to the police shortly after the robbery, at which time Nichols said he wanted an attorney. He reiterated that request when arrested. Nevertheless, the police secured a Miranda waiver and a statement from Nichols, in which he admitted possessing a gun during the robbery. Nichols motion to suppress the statement was granted, leading the Government to drop the armed robbery and firearm counts and Nichols to plead guilty only to bank robbery. At sentencing, the district court refused to consider Nichols's statement in calculating the Guidelines, resulting in a 46-month sentence.

The Government appealed, arguing that Miranda and its exclusionary rule do not apply in sentencing proceedings. The Fourth Circuit agreed and vacated the sentence. After reviewing the goals of Miranda and the purposes of suppression (deterrence of police misconduct), the court concluded that that purpose was not advanced by suppression of the statement at sentencing. Suppression also would run headlong into the traditional prerogative of the district court to consider any reliable evidence at sentencing. A statement might be suppressed at sentencing, the court suggested, if there was evidence that the Government violated Miranda in order to increase the defendant's sentence or if the statement was actually involuntarily given.

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