I assume that a custodial interrogation that involved the use of "torture" would be suppressed by any U.S. court.

But I can't find a law that clearly defines custodial practices that would constitute torture, beyond the "Torture Act."

In researching this I have found frequent references to "cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment." Is there precedent for suppression of interrogation conducted under conditions in which a detainee has been subject to "cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment?"

One condition that is enumerated, at least by the DoD, is hypothermia. Another I imagine to be more common would be sleep deprivation, if for no other reason than that it impairs an individual's ability to assert one's Miranda rights.



18 USC 3501 says that a confession is admissible if it is voluntary. If it was given during an abusive interrogation, that would generally show that it wasn't voluntary.

There is some analysis at https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/voluntary-confessions.html and https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/compelled-self-incrimination.html.

Any amount of violence used during the interrogation would generally make the confession inadmissible, whether or not it rose to the level of torture. Indeed, even if no actual violence is used, but only threats of violence, that would be enough to make the confession inadmissible, according to that article.


Yes, you are right that not every possible instance of abuse is spelled out and that is intentional. If they spelled out what could be abuse in every instance, it would likely leave out things that could count and therefore create loopholes or it would be so long that you could never read it all.

As Nate Eldredge said, in U.S. Federal court, the law he cites does not allow for abuse during an interrogation. However, that law and similar state laws and supreme court rules, come about due to the 8th Amendment.

The 8th Amendment does not only apply to punishments after a conviction, it would apply when you are in custody, which you would be if you are held to be interrogated.

Generally to see if something is abuse when you are in custody, you would look at case law. That is because what is close to the same thing can be found to be abusive in one setting, but not in another. For example, if you subject someone to loud noises at certain times, it can be found to be abuse in most states, while if you where on the battlefield, since you mentioned the DOD, perhaps there are things going on outside beyond your control and you can not stop the loud noises.

  • Well, the 8th Amendment would seem, by that reading, to forbid the use of torture at all, but it doesn't say what should happen if it is used. I think the notion that confessions thus obtained should be inadmissible comes instead from the 5th Amendment's prohibition of compelled testimony against oneself. – Nate Eldredge Jun 7 '19 at 18:31
  • Yes, I agree that you would still have your fifth amendment right to not testify against yourself, but I meant if you were presenting it to a judge, you would have to use the 8th amendment and case law stemming from it, to show you were wronged. Without that, anyone who confessed could just say they wanted to retroactively call on the fifth amendment. – Putvi Jun 7 '19 at 18:41
  • I respectfully disagree. The Fifth Amendment says that "no person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself". So if your confession was compelled, even if the means of compulsion wasn't cruel and unusual, it should be inadmissible. Conversely, if the government can show that you made your confession voluntarily, without being compelled, then it can certainly be used against you and the Fifth Amendment doesn't apply. – Nate Eldredge Jun 7 '19 at 18:50
  • That isn't really disagreeing tbh. The showing from you or the government that you mention when you say ", if the government can show" would be based on the 8th amendment in most cases. – Putvi Jun 7 '19 at 18:52
  • I guess what I'm saying is that the Fifth Amendment argument gives broader protections. Suppose, as mentioned in the link I gave, that the police threaten to seize your property unless you confess, and so you do. I don't think anyone would argue that seizing property is cruel and unusual punishment, so you don't have an Eighth Amendment claim here. But you still have a Fifth Amendment claim, because you were compelled to confess under threat. – Nate Eldredge Jun 7 '19 at 18:56

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