The Applicability of Miranda Warnings to Non-felony Offenses: Is the Proper Standard “Custodial Interrogation” or “Severity of the Offense”?

This Note argues that the proper standard for determining the necessity of the Miranda warnings for any offense is the existence of custodial interrogation. When interrogation for non-felony offenses takes place in a custodial atmosphere, Miranda warnings should be required, as they are for more serious offenses. Part I summarizes the two basic approaches taken by courts that have confronted the question of the applicability of the Miranda warnings to non-felony offenses. Part Ill argues that neither the rationale for the Miranda doctrine nor the roots of the fifth amendment support a distinction based on the severity of the offense with which the suspect is charged. Part II also distinguishes the Miranda privileges from other areas of the law where such distinctions based on severity of the crime are valid. Part III considers how the component parts of the custodial interrogation standard would work in practice in minor offense investigations, and how Miranda warnings will not unduly impair investigations for non-felony offenses. Part III concludes that there are sound reasons for imposing this minor burden on the police in order to protect the fifth amendment rights of non-felony suspects.