We see police officers give Miranda Warnings to people they are arresting on television all the time, but what are they really?
Miranda Rights were developed after the landmark Supreme Court Case of Miranda v. Arizona in 1966. In that case, the defendant, Miranda, was arrested for kidnapping and rape. After being interrogated for two hours by police officers without being advised of his rights, Miranda signed a confession. Miranda’s lawyer argued that the confession was not voluntary as a result, and should have been excluded as evidence from the trial. The US Supreme Court ultimately agreed, and found that the defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer had been violated. Interestingly, Miranda was later retried and convicted.
In its ruling, the US Supreme Court stated that prior to interrogation, a person who is in custody must be clearly informed that he/she has (1) the right to remain silent, (2) that anything he/she says can and will be used against him/her in a court of law, (3) that he/she has the right to consult with an attorney prior to and during any questioning, and (4) that if he/she cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for him/her at no cost.
Subsequent to the Miranda decision, it became necessary for police officers to “Mirandize,” or read a person’s Miranda Rights to them, prior to an interrogation. Although we commonly see police officers reading Miranda Rights on tv, it is not always necessary for them to do so. There are only certain, limited scenarios in which an officer has to warn a person of his/her rights, specifically: when that person is in custody and being interrogated. Many people believe that their criminal charges can be “thrown out” because an officer didn’t read Miranda. However, if a person voluntarily answered questions during a consensual encounter with police officers (for example, an officer walked up to the person on the street and asked them what they were doing), those answers can be used against them later. A person who is arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail does not have to have their rights read to them unless the officer begins asking that person questions. If the arrested person starts talking on his/her own in the back of the police car, without being asked questions, all of those statements can be used against the arrestee. Further, suspects who are informed they are free to leave and not under arrest do not have to be Mirandized, and any confession that person gives can usually be used in court. Finally, even if a person has been read Miranda Rights, that person can still waive those rights and have any subsequent confession used against them.
A person who IS placed under arrest and interrogated without being read Miranda Rights may be able to have his/her statements suppressed (or thrown out). However, that does not mean the case has to be or will be dismissed. Anyone who has questions regarding their particular case, or Miranda rights in general, should contact a criminal defense attorney.
The infographic below provides a colorful layout of Miranda Rights as they are typically read.
Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.