The language of Miranda warnings in American jurisdictions: a replication and vocabulary analysis

Law Hum Behav. 2008 Apr;32(2):124-36. doi: 10.1007/s10979-007-9091-y. Epub 2007 Jun 28.


Miranda warnings are remarkably heterogeneous in their language, length, and content. Past research has focused mostly on individual Miranda warnings. Lacking in generalizability, these studies have limited applicability to both public policy and professional practice. A large-scale survey by R. Rogers et al. [2007b, Law and Human Behavior, 31, 177-192] examined Miranda warnings from across the United States and documented striking differences in the length, content, and reading comprehension. In moving from single jurisdiction studies to nationally representative research, the replication of the Rogers et al. survey is essential. With an additional 385 general Miranda warnings, most of the original findings were confirmed; this replication allows Miranda researchers to use findings based upon nationally-representative warnings for their subsequent research. Beyond reading comprehension, the study makes an original contribution to the understanding of Miranda vocabulary that is often infused with abstruse words and legalistic terms. It provides the first analysis of sentence complexity, which affects both Miranda comprehension and retention. As a result of these analyses, preliminary guidelines are provided for increasing the comprehension and understanding of Miranda warnings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Jurisprudence
  • Language*
  • Public Policy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Vocabulary*