Miranda Warnings and Your Rights
When do the police have to read your rights? Sometimes never. If you are new to the criminal justice system, and you or your loved one has recently been arrested, this is a common question.
We hear a similar version of the following scene almost every day: When I (or my boyfriend, my brother, friend, etc.) was arrested the cops never read them his rights! Many people are convinced that the whole case can be thrown out because the police “didn’t read their rights” to them. When I hear this, the first question I ask is: “Did the cop question you after the arrest?” And, the answer almost always is: “No.” Well, guess what – he didn’t have to read you your rights!
Reading of your rights is ONLY necessary if:
- You are in custody – in handcuffs, in the back of a patrol car, in an interview room. You may not be free to leave.
- The cop is asking you questions.
CUSTODY AND INTERROGATION ARE THE TWO MAIN REQUIREMENTS FOR YOUR RIGHTS TO BE READ.
Almost everyone is familiar with “their rights” also known as Miranda warnings which usually goes like this:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and to have him present during any questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you by the court. Having these rights in mind do you still wish to speak to us.”
In order to make sure this Constitutional right was adequately protected, The US Supreme Court decided in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436 (1966), that if you are in custody and being interrogated the police must read you your rights. They have to advise you of your right to talk with an attorney (6th Amendment right to an attorney), and they have to advise you that you have a 5th Amendment right not to incriminate yourself. That is, you have the RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT.
If you decide to talk after you know those rights – MOST COURTS will say that your statement to the police was voluntary. There are exceptions to the “voluntary” statement – particularly in juvenile cases, so always consult with an experienced criminal lawyer.
Miranda is sort of an interesting case: Decided in 1966, Ernesto Miranda was questioned by the Phoenix police for the rape and murder of an 18 year old girl. After two hours of questioning by the police, he signed a confession saying he was voluntarily confessing and that he wasn’t coerced.
But, no one ever told him about his 6th Amendment right to an attorney. All the Arizona courts upheld his confession. But, the US Supreme Court overturned it saying the police should have told him about his right to an attorney.
Interestingly, Miranda’s original conviction was thrown out – but he was eventually convicted using evidence other than his confession. After his release from prison in 1976, he was killed in a bar fight over a game of pool. The suspect of that murder, exercised his right to remain silent and was never convicted.
The bottom line is that if you are arrested or the police restrain your liberty to leave (meaning you are in custody) they cannot question you (interrogation) without reading you the Miranda warnings above. Despite the reading of rights – we see TOO MANY suspects confess. Don’t do it – you have the right to remain silent. Exercise it.