Miranda Rights - what are they and when do they apply?
We have all seen it on our favorite legal TV shows and crime movies, the scene where the prime suspect is being cuffed and crammed into the cop car. "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a Court of law . . . " This is the Hollywood version of a very real and very important set of rights for anyone having a police encounter or accused of a crime.
Based upon a very important United States Supreme Court case, Miranda refers to the rights afforded to individuals who are subject to what the law calls
"custodial interrogation." When you are subject to "custodial interrogation," law enforcement must advise you that you have certain rights that have a very significant impact on the State's case against you. More on custodial interrogation below!
You must be advised:
- You have the right to remain silent - YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS OR MAKE ANY STATEMENTS!!!!
- Anything you say could be used against you in Court - IF YOU DO SPEAK, THE COPS WILL TRY TO USE IT AGAINST YOU IN COURT!!!!
- You have a right to be represented by an attorney - YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU HAVE A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY AT ALL STAGES OF THE CASE!!!!
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you by the Court - LAWYERS ARE NOT JUST FOR THE RICH. YOU WILL GET ONE EVEN IF YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO HIRE ONE!!!!
Does Miranda apply only when I'm getting arrested?
NO!!! I often say, "we all watch too much TV." Based upon what we get from TV and movies, it seems that Miranda rights only apply when the suspect is getting arrested. But this is not true. Miranda applies ANYTIME there is "custodial interrogation."
The term "custodial interrogation" conjures up even more TV and movie images- dingy jail cell, a single light hanging overhead, a metal table in the center of the room. Weary suspect cuffed to the table, "good cop" and "bad cop" taking turns questioning (or worse) the suspect for answers about the crime. Many people assume that this is what the law calls custodial interrogation- and only in this scenario do the Miranda rights apply. Not so.
No, it doesn't take being arrested, placed in the cop car and driven to the jail to be considered custody. All it takes is for the suspect (you) to have the subjective belief that YOU ARE NOT FREE TO GO. If law enforcement is in your presence and you are told that you cannot leave or even if you simply feel like you are not free to leave- that constitutes custody for the purposes of Miranda.
Likewise, interrogation does not necessarily mean direct questioning from the cops in an interrogation or interview room. Anything the officers ask you, say to you, or even say in your presence will be legally considered interrogation if ANY of those things could lead you to make statements or admissions that could be used to prosecute you. If law enforcement is engaged in any such conduct while you are in custody that could lead to you making a statement or admission, this will be considered interrogation.
What if they don't tell me those rights and I make a statement?
The law is very clear. If you are subject to custodial interrogation but law enforcement DOES NOT ADVISE YOU OF YOUR MIRANDA RIGHTS- your statements may be thrown out of Court! When you are charged with a crime, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney at your side. If your Miranda Rights have been violated, your lawyer should fight to get all statements suppressed and thrown out of Court!!!
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