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Miranda Rights Summary

A person has a Constitutional right to not be compelled to be a witness against himself (5th Amendment of U.S. Constitution paraphrased in part). Essentially, this means that a person cannot be compelled to make a statement that harms his life, liberty, or property. In practice, the courts have found that the adversarial setting of a police interrogation is inherently coercive and compels a person to make a statement against his life, liberty, or property; therefore, to combat the coercive effect of a police interrogation, the court in Miranda v. Arizona announced that a criminal suspect or defendant must be given certain information from the police before the police may question that suspect or defendant. The information include:

  • The right to remain silent

  • That fact that anything the suspect or defendant says can be used against her in court

  • That she has a right to the assistance of a lawyer, and

  • That if she cannot afford a lawyer, the government will provide her with one

Note: Miranda rights are warnings to a defendant that are intended to protect a person’s constitutional rights even though the warnings themselves are not in the constitution. Also, a police officer who renders slight variations of the Miranda rights (warnings) does not invalidate the warnings, so long as the warnings are not varied in such a way as to destroy their meaning.

Note: A defendant in a criminal case may waive her Miranda rights; however, in most cases, waiving Miranda rights leads to incriminating statements that will be used against the defendant. Generally, a criminal defendant should seek the advice of a criminal defense lawyer without delay and before allowing the police to question her.

Applications: Miranda warnings are intended to vitiate the coercive nature of police interrogation. If the defendant is not informed of her Miranda rights before questioning then anything she says while she is in police custody may be rendered inadmissible in a court of law. For example, if the defendant is questioned by police about a crime and the defendant confesses during that police questioning then the confession will be rendered inadmissible unless the defendant was first informed that she had the rights enumerated in Miranda v. Arizona (See listed Miranda rights above). Also, the defendant’s silence after she is informed of her Miranda rights cannot be used against her.

Interrogation Required: Miranda rights apply to statements and confessions. The rights do not apply to non-verbal non-communication body language or to physical evidence. For example, if the police ask a defendant if she knows where a gun is without first informing the defendant her Miranda rights and the defendant nods her head in the affirmative then the defendant’s non-verbal affirmative nod should be inadmissible for failure to advise the defendant of her Miranda rights.

Police Custody: The Miranda warnings only apply to statement(s) made by a defendant while that defendant is in in police custody. Whether or not a person is in police custody is based on an objective view of the circumstances. In other words, just because a person feels like she is under arrest (police custody) does not mean that she is actually under arrest. In many cases, an officer stops a person for a brief interview when the officer believes the person interviewed has committed a crime; however, this brief stop, and the question and answer session that follows, is not likely a situation that requires the officer to read the defendant her Miranda rights. In order for an officer's brief stop of a suspect to not equal police custody there must be some articulate reason for the brief stop; but otherwise, any response to a question posed by law enforcement during these types of brief investigatory stops is not subject to the rules in Miranda (Terry v. Ohio [Terry Stop]).

 

Note: Miranda rights only apply to law enforcement. For example, a defendant’s response to a question posed by her non law enforcement boyfriend may be used against her even if her boyfriend did not first read to the defendant her Miranda warnings. Law enforcement includes, but is not limited to: police, sheriff, child protective service agents (CPS), probation and parole officers, agents of police (polygraph examiners, etc.), court deputies, US Postal Inspectors (USPI), DEA , FBI, ATF, and agents of law enforcement (such as undercover officers posing as cell inmates to gather defendant's statements).

Exceptions: There are several exceptions to the Miranda rule that may allow a defendant’s statement to be used against her despite the fact that her Miranda rights were not announced by the police before they interrogated her. Theses exceptions include, but are not limited to, the following: Public safety exception (where the Miranda warnings were not read due to an emergency need to secure public safety), and voluntary confession (where the suspect blurts out statements when she was not being questioned or after she has raised her Miranda rights), and more.

Police Deception: It is admissible for law enforcement to deceive the defendant into waiving his or her Miranda Rights so long as that deception is limited to verbal deception and does not nullify the Miranda’s warnings. For example, if the police, as part of an effort to obtain a confession from the defendant, falsely claim that they have video evidence of the defendant's criminal activity, then that verbal claim by itself is not likely a violation of the defendant’s Miranda rights. On the other hand, if the police have gone so far as to fabricate documentary evidence in an effort to obtain a defendant’s Miranda waiver then the defendant’s Miranda rights are probably violated.

Note: When the defendant requests to talk to an attorney after her arrest then any effort, including the use of deception, which is used by police to obtain a statement from her, is likely a violation of her Miranda rights. On the other hand, pre-arrest silence may be used against the defendant.

 

The forgoing is presented only as a brief overview of Miranda rights law. It is important that if you or a loved one is charged with a crime to contact a lawyer at the earliest possible opportunity to learn how Miranda rights law and other criminal procedures and defenses may apply to your case.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a crime contact our criminal defense lawyers without delay. Our criminal defense team has successfully represented hundreds of defendant charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes in the Inland Empire. There is no fee to discuss your case at a first-time in-office consultation. Call today!

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