Forensic toolbox: Assessment of Miranda waivers – the SAMA (Structured Assessment of Miranda Waivers).

The assessment of Miranda waivers is a common task for the general practice forensic psychologist. Up until recently, psychologists had Grisso’s Miranda measure to utilize in these situations (see Frumkin, et al, 2012).

Richard Rogers and his colleagues have recently released a significant new forensic assessment instrument marketed by PAR Inc.

The SAMA comprises five measures:
• Miranda Quiz (MQ). Twenty-five true-or-false questions measure common misconceptions about Miranda rights and their potential effect on Miranda decision making.
• Miranda Vocabulary Scale (MVS). Assesses the comprehension of 36 key words that are relevant to Miranda, have specific legal meanings, and/or could be semantically confusing.
• Miranda Comprehension Template (MCT). Assesses a client’s ability to accurately paraphrase the warning used in his or her actual Miranda advisement; examines highly prototypical content found in many Miranda warnings.
• Miranda Acquiescence Questionnaire (MAQ). Measures the client’s level of yea-saying versus nay-saying.
• Miranda Reasoning Measure (MRM). Provides a foundation for understanding the examinee’s thoughts and basic reasoning at the time of the Miranda warning and subsequent relinquishment of Constitutional rights.

I recently used the SAMA in assessing the confession of a 26-year old man with Asperger’s. The tool provided a remarkably fine grained, multi-dimensional analysis of the Miranda waiver. When linked to CST tools like the MacCat-CR and the ECST-R, a very detailed, powerful, and illuminating forensic assessment emerges.

It is complicated to master and takes some practice, but is well worth the effort.

Reference:

Frumkin IB, Lally SJ, Sexton JE. (2012).The Grisso tests for assessing understanding and appreciation of Miranda warnings with a forensic sample. Behavioral Sciences and the Law. 30, 6, 673-92. .

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