Teaching Youth Their Miranda Rights: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Kate Doyle Feingold

Advisor: Linda M. Merola, Criminology, Law and Society, David Weisburd, Criminology, Law and Society

Committee Members: Charlotte Gill, Kristien Zenkov

Research Hall, #310
April 20, 2020, 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM


Over one million juveniles are arrested in the United States each year (including 65,000 who are under the age of 12), and the law in most states allows juveniles to be treated the same as adults during police interrogations (Rogers et al., 2016 citing Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2013). Existing research indicates that Miranda warnings are varied and complex, rates of misconceptions are high, and comprehension rates are low, especially for juveniles (Grisso, 1980; Rogers, 2011; Rogers et al 2007). Juveniles are especially vulnerable to police interrogation tactics and may be two to three times more likely to falsely confess to crimes (Crane et al., 2016). To date, little existing research tests solutions to this problem. In the present study, an educational video designed to teach youth their rights is empirically tested using a randomized controlled design. Results indicate that the video helped improve comprehension and decrease the number of serious misconceptions held by youth with respect to both the Miranda warnings and the underlying rights. Additionally, youth in the treatment group had fewer serious misconceptions at a one-month follow-up, although these results were not significant. Two youth from the treatment group were also arrested and Mirandized by police during the study period and they both exercised their rights and did not give statements to police.