American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 51, Issue 4 (2015)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


Judges are likely to respond with outright skepticism when the validity of a Miranda waiver is questioned because the defendant claimed to be merely “depressed” or “anxious” at the time of arrest. They may be reassured that extensive research on Miranda abilities has largely borne out this perspective.

Symptoms of depression and anxiety, by themselves, do not increase the chances of impaired Miranda comprehension or reasoning. For instance, defendants with even moderate to severe depression have roughly the same odds of impaired functioning as those with negligible depression. Only at the extreme levels of depression does a pattern of deficits emerge for Miranda comprehension but not for Miranda reasoning.1

Likewise, a similar pattern is observed even for certain psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and paranoid distrust.2 On reflection, both legal and mental-health professionals alike can discern a plausible explanation for this occurring. Since most delusions and persecutory thoughts do not involve the police or the criminal-justice system, these symptoms are likely to have only a peripheral influence on Miranda-relevant abilities. Only when psychotic symptoms become truly pervasive (i.e., extremely severe) are they likely to impair Miranda comprehension and reasoning.