Knowing Your Miranda Rights During A Police Interrogation
Even if you’ve already received a “Miranda warning” at some point, you may wonder, exactly, “What are my Miranda rights?” On TV, this is the well-known “You have the right to remain silent” talk that accompanies an arrest. In reality, the timing and procedure of a Miranda warning may be more complicated, and sometimes occur well after a suspect has given a potentially incriminating statement.
“Miranda Rights” draw their name from a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona, where a defendant was not properly advised of his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. The Fifth Amendment holds that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” While anyone is free to waive this right and make whatever statements or confessions they choose, law enforcement officers must keep Fifth Amendment rights in mind and properly advise a suspect of them.
Before Miranda, Fifth Amendment rights were associated with “pleading the Fifth” under cross-examination at a courtroom trial. Miranda extended these privileges to any situation where “freedom of action is curtailed in any significant way.”
The Supreme Court spelled this out due to the imbalance of power in any custodial interrogation. If anything, suspects need more protection outside of a courtroom setting when there are no judges or attorneys to intervene on their behalf.
Arrests made at traffic stops, crime scenes, or people’s residences carry a natural “intimidation factor” due to the usual presence of multiple police officers surrounding a scared suspect. All too often, police will use this leverage to their advantage to coax individuals into damaging statements that can lead to a criminal charge.
Recognizing this, courts recognize the need to provide Miranda warnings in any setting where a suspect may not feel free to leave the interrogation. In a “custodial interrogation”, a defendant must be advised:
- They have the right to remain silent
- Anything they say can be used against them in a court of law
- They have the right to the presence of an attorney
- If they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for them prior to questioning if they so choose
What is a “Custodial Interrogation” for Miranda Purposes?
A custodial interrogation’s existence depends on the circumstances and coercive factors at play. Courts rely upon an objective “reasonable person” test – under the particular situation the defendant was in, how likely would an average person feel their freedom to leave was curtailed?
A “custodial interrogation” is never just limited to a detective’s “interrogation room” as seen on TV. Custodial interrogations can occur at someone’s vehicle, on the street, at a public building, or even at someone’s own home.
Miranda safeguards also apply to the interrogation process as a whole. This can include words or actions by police that are “reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect.” (See Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291). Law enforcement officers are well trained to obtain confessional statements using off-topic conversations, body language, and other techniques to get a subject to “let their guard down” and say something that helps their investigation. In many cases, these statements can be thrown out of court if a proper Miranda warning was not given beforehand.
Effects of In-Custody Confessions Made Without Miranda Warnings
Incriminating custodial statements made before Miranda warnings have been issued cannot be introduced as evidence at trial in most situations. That doesn’t mean law enforcement won’t stretch this rule and seek voluntary confessions without triggering a Miranda situation. They will use techniques like delaying an arrest, saying you are free to go (even though you are surrounded by officers and flashing lights), or use other methods to keep their custodial interrogation from looking like a custodial interrogation.
Consult a Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Who Knows Your Miranda Rights
Criminal charges often include some kind of statement made by the defendant to police. If any incriminating statements were made, a defendant’s attorney must examine whether those statements were made while preserving your Constitutional rights. If not, those statements can be excluded from the case, sometimes leading to an outright dismissal. Contact the Pearland criminal defense lawyers at the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today or call 832-243-6153 for a case evaluation to build your defense.