Miranda Rights

“Were my Miranda rights violated?”

This is a question I get asked sometimes by my clients regarding issues dealing with their arrest.  I find that many times there is a misunderstanding by my clients as to what their Miranda rights actually are and when Miranda applies.  This article will explain what the “Miranda Rights” are, when they apply and how these rights came into existence.

For nearly two-hundred years, the criminal justice system in the United States didn’t recognize Miranda rights.  Then in 1966, the Supreme Court of the United States held in Miranda v. Arizona, that police must advise a suspect in custody of his constitutional rights before questioning the suspect.  The Court held that these rights were secured by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

In Miranda, Ernesto Miranda was accused of kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old woman.  He was brought in for questioning and confessed to the crime.  During his trial, Miranda’s lawyer tried to get the confession thrown out.  However, the motion was denied. The Supreme Court of the United States held that since Miranda’s statements were made to police without him being advised of his right, the confession had to be thrown out.

A defendant’s Miranda rights are 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.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.  You have the right to consult with a lawyer and the right to have a lawyer present during the defendant’s interrogation.   Police officers must administer the Miranda warnings when a suspect is taken into custody and before any interrogation.

You do not have to be handcuffed,  hauled off to jail, at the police station, in the back of a police vehicle or arrested to be in custody.  A person is also in custody when his freedom of movement is significantly restricted.   If a reasonable person would feel he is not free to leave, then the suspect was in custody and Miranda applies.

Even if a person remains silent for a long period of time, is not enough to invoke the right to remain silent.   A person must clearly and unambiguously tell the police officer that they are not going to talk or that they are going to exercise their right to remain silent.   Examples of a person exercising their right to remain silent are, “I wish to remain silent,” or “I do not want to answer any questions.”

A person may exercise his Miranda rights at anytime during police questioning, even if a person has already made statements or answered some questions.  A person’s statements made to police officers cannot be used against them as direct evidence in court if they were not advised of their Miranda rights.  Additional evidence the police may uncover as the results of a person’s statements made without being advised of their Miranda rights can also be excluded in court.

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