McNabb v. United States, 318 U.S. 332 (1943)

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A major issue in Criminal Law is determining when confessions should be excluded from trial evidence. American courts ask whether confessions are ‘‘voluntary,’’ while also incorporating the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule, the Fifth Amendment self-incrimination right, and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process clauses. A prominent case addressing confession admissibility is McNabb v. United States, 318 U.S. 332 (1943), where the Supreme Court determined that confessions can be excluded if obtained after ‘‘unnecessary delay’’ in arraigning suspects.

The McNabb petitioners confessed to killing a federal officer, but were never brought before a magistrate upon arrest, though federal legislation required prompt arraignment. Relying on the congressional statute, the Court excluded the confessions, holding that they were made during unlawful detentions. McNabb was reaffirmed by Mallory v. United States, 354 U.S. 449 (1957). Accordingly, the McNabb–Mallory doctrine prohibits ‘‘undue delay’’ in arraignment and invalidates confessions derived from lengthy delays.

In Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1 (1964), the Court held that self-incrimination protections apply to the states, thus paving the way for Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), where the Court stated that the Fifth Amendment requires notification of constitutional rights before interrogation. In reaction to Miranda and McNabb–Mallory, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (18 U.S.C. } 3501), which contradicted the decisions by applying only the traditional ‘‘voluntariness’’ standard for confession admissibility. In Dickerson v. United States (530 U.S. 428, 2000), however, the Court invalidated that act, stating that Congress could not nullify Supreme Court decisions.


References and Further Reading

  • Baker, Liva. Miranda: Crime, Law and Politics. New York: Antheneum, 1983.
  • Brandt, Charles. The Right to Remain Silent. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988.
  • Grano, Joseph D. Confessions, Truth, and the Law. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.
  • Hancock, Catherine, Due Process Before Miranda, Tulane Law Review 70 (1996).
  • Hogan, James E., and Joseph M. Snee, The McNabb– Mallory Rule: Its Rise, Rationale, and Rescue, Georgetown Law Journal 47 (Fall 1958).
  • Imwinkelried, Edward J., Paul C. Giannelli, Francis A. Gilligan, and Fredric I. Lederer. Courtroom Criminal Evidence, 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Michie Publishing, 2003.
  • Inbau, Fred Edward, John E. Reid, and Joseph P. Buckley. Criminal Interrogation and Confessions. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1986.
  • Macnair, Michael R. T., The Early Development of the Privilege Against Self-Incrimination, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 10 (1990).
  • Rutledge, Devallis. Criminal Interrogation: Law and Tactics. Placerville, CA: Copperhouse Publishing, 1994.
  • Wigmore, John Henry. A Treatise on the Anglo-American Systemof Evidence in Trials at Common Law, 3rd ed. 1940.

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428 (2000)
  • Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1 (1964)
  • Mallory v. United States, 354 U.S. 449 (1957)
  • McNabb v. United States, 318 U.S. 332 (1943)
  • Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)
  • 18 U.S.C. } 3501

See also Coerced Confessions/Police Interrogations; Miranda Warning; Self-Incrimination (V): Historical Background