You might be familiar with the Miranda warning from movies and TV shows. It consists of four statements reminding a suspect that they have certain Constitutional protections in a criminal matter.
Usually, media depictions show police officers reciting the Miranda warning as they handcuff the suspect and push them into the back of a police car. But is this typically when and how the warning is given?
It could be. But really, police officers are only required to read a person their Miranda rights under the following conditions:
- They have taken a suspect into custody (meaning the individual's freedoms are significantly deprived), and
- They intend to question the individual about their alleged involvement in a crime.
Otherwise, officers do not have to Mirandize a person. More specifically, if they arrest someone and are not going to interrogate them, they are not required to read the warning. Conversely, if they detain someone (for instance, stop them on suspicion of driving under the influence) and question them, they do not have to inform the person of their rights.
What Is the Miranda Warning?
The requirement for police officers to read suspects the Miranda warning stems from the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona. In this case, Mr. Miranda was arrested for alleged kidnapping and rape. Police questioned him for hours until he confessed to the crimes and signed a statement saying that he made his confession knowingly and voluntarily.
He was convicted and sentenced to prison but later appealed the judgment, which the Arizona Supreme Court rejected. Eventually, the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where in a 5-4 decision, the justices said that the nature of a police interrogation was so intimidating that the person in custody must be informed of their rights before officers question them.
Thus, prior to an interrogation, law enforcement officials must inform the individual of the following:
- Right to remain silent,
- Any statements made can be used against them in a court of law,
- Right to an attorney, and
- Right to be appointed an attorney if the individual cannot afford one.
How to Invoke the Right to Remain Silent
When a person is in custody and being interrogated by police, they can invoke their right to remain silent. In other words, they can refuse to answer any questions.
To do so, they can say that they are exercising their right to remain silent. Once they make this statement, the interrogation should stop. Even if the individual had initially started answering questions, they could later choose to stay quiet and indicate their decision to the officers.
What Happens If the Police Don't Read the Miranda Warning?
One misconception people have, likely informed by distorted depictions in the media, is that if officers do not Mirandize a suspect and elicit statements or a confession from the individual, the case will be dismissed. But that's not necessarily so. Although failing to read the Miranda warning deprives a person of being informed of their Constitutional rights, it's not enough to prevent the case from moving forward.
In reality, when a suspect is not Mirandized, their criminal defense attorney can file a motion to exclude evidence. If a judge grants the request, the prosecutor would not be able to present in court anything the suspect said during the interrogation.
Having evidence deemed inadmissible can weaken the prosecutor's arguments. However, it's not necessarily going to completely cause the case to fall apart. The prosecutor might use other facts, testimonies, or tangible objects to attempt to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Does the Right to Remain Silent Only Apply After an Arrest?
As mentioned earlier, police are not required to read the Miranda warning if they have not taken someone into custody or don't intend to interrogate a suspect. However, that doesn't mean that the individual does not have the right to remain silent.
The Constitutional protection against self-incrimination is applicable in all situations involving contact with law enforcement officials. Therefore, a person does not have to respond to police questions. They can politely refuse to provide answers. However, the individual may be required to give basic identification details, such as their name, address, and date of birth. But beyond that, they do not have to say anything.
Because any statements made to police officers can be used as evidence, regardless of when they are given, it's a good idea to exercise the right to remain silent. Doing so protects the individual from saying something that could hurt them later.
Talk to a Lawyer About Your Case in Dayton, OH
Police officers must follow certain procedures when taking someone into custody and questioning them. Failure to do so can result in a rights violation, which can profoundly impact the outcome of a case.
At L. Patrick Mulligan & Associates, LLC, we examine relevant details, looking at what happened during initial police contacts to charges being filed. If we notice anything remiss, we take swift action to remedy the situation.We are ready to protect your rights and future. For dedicated defense, please call us at (937) 685-7006 or contact us online today.