What is it about?

A fundamental constitutional right is the right against self-incrimination and to an attorney in the criminal justice process. Before interrogating a suspect in custody, police must inform individuals of these Miranda rights. Psychologists can conduct a type of forensic evaluation, called a Miranda evaluation, to help the judge decide if an individual’s Miranda waiver was constitutional. Using Miranda evaluations as an illustration, authors review how the critical, yet often overlooked, concepts of racial trauma and prior vicarious and direct police contacts should routinely be considered as part of forensic evaluations. After providing a succinct overview of relevant legal issues and existing guidelines for conducting Miranda evaluations, the authors describe how clinicians should consider the potential psychological impact of racial trauma and prior vicarious and direct police contacts. This represents a major shift in the way forensic psychologist routinely conduct evaluations.

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Why is it important?

The work of forensic psychologists can help shape policy and law at local and national levels. Courts are increasingly signaling their interest in receiving input on how racial trauma and vicarious and direct police contacts relate to defendants’ decisions. Psychologists can answer this call by considering these factors in their evaluations for the courts.


As a primary author, I was intentional in who I invited to co-author this paper. I felt it was imperative to have diversity in terms of race/ethnicity, immigration status, and career stage. This decision mirrors the call of some legal and forensic practitioners - -recognize race is a social construct concept that impacts groups differently. So, the idea that "all things are equal" or "justice is blind" is nonsensical. As authors of this article, we created a working space where everyone's voice was heard and respected; and we openly discussed how race, class, and privilege shaped our perspective and our work.

Dr. Antoinette E Kavanaugh
Northwestern Univeristy

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Taking the next step in Miranda evaluations: Considering racial trauma and the impact of prior police contact., Law and Human Behavior, February 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/lhb0000500.
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