Miranda Rights — When They Apply and When They Don’t
Anyone familiar with television police shows such as Law and Order or CSI has surely seen the police officers portrayed on these shows reading Miranda rights to suspects:
- You have the right to remain silent
- Your statements may be used to incriminate you in court
- You have the right to an attorney
- Counsel can be appointed for you if you cannot afford an attorney
As a result of this television indoctrination, people mistakenly believe that the police cannot use anything they say against them if “the cops didn’t read me my rights.”
It’s not that simple.
Miranda was designed to protect people’s Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate themselves and their Sixth Amendment right to counsel once arrested. Miranda v Arizona, however, is a case that simply holds that the police are required to advise you of certain constitutional rights only if you are in custody or the subject of custodial interrogation.
When Miranda doesn’t apply
When officers simply make contact with you and ask questions, they are not compelled to advise you of your Miranda rights because you are not in custody. If you willingly answer these police questions, the answers can be used against you because you were not being interrogated in a custodial setting.
Police interrogation, meaning questioning by state agents, is the key component that triggers Miranda warnings. If a suspect is arrested and blurts out an incriminating statement without police questioning, the statements are not the result of interrogation and therefore not protected by Miranda
What constitutes interrogation?
Only statements elicited from suspects who are being interrogated are protected. What constitutes interrogation? Either express questioning or any behavior on the part of a police officer that could be expected to evoke an incriminating response. One famous case held that an officer talking about the need to find a child’s body in order to give her a Christian burial constituted behavior calculated to evoke an incriminating response from the suspect.
Should you be faced with a situation where police are seeking to talk to you or another family member and you have concerns about the statements being used in court, contact a hard-hitting, knowledgeable Reading criminal defense lawyer to fight to protect your rights.