DiCindio Law LLC | June 13, 2022 | Criminal Law
Miranda Warnings: What Happens if the Police Don’t Read You Your Rights
Unfortunately, television shows and movies have resulted in numerous misconceptions about when police officers must read a person the Miranda warning. For example, many people believe that the court automatically dismisses the case if the police officers do not read the Miranda warning. While the Miranda rights could impact your case, failing to read you the Miranda warning does not automatically mean you are set free.
What Is the Miranda Warning?
The Miranda warning refers to the requirement that law enforcement officers provide a specific warning to individuals once they are detained by the police. The police officers must remind a person of their legal rights pursuant to the Fifth and Sixth Amendments before interrogation.
The rights explained in the Miranda warning are:
- You have the right to remain silent
- You have the right to speak with a lawyer
- You have the right to have a lawyer with you during any questioning
- Anything you say can be used against you in court
- The court will provide a lawyer if you are unable to afford a lawyer on your own
The requirement came from the United States Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona in 1966. The court held that a person must be made aware of these rights before being questioned by police officers in a custodial interrogation.
When Is a Person Considered to Be in Custody?
You are in custody if you are not permitted to leave or if you are deprived of your freedom of action in any significant way.
Therefore, you could be in police custody in the back of a police car or when you are in jail. However, you could also be in police custody while standing in the middle of a road or a retail store.
If the police officers want to ask questions and use your answers against you in court, they must read the Miranda warning if you are in custody. However, if you are not in custody, there is no legal requirement to inform you of your Miranda rights.
Therefore, anything you say while not in custody can be used against you, even though the police did not inform you of your Miranda rights. The Miranda requirement only applies when a person is in custody AND is being interrogated by law enforcement officers.
Police officers often avoid arresting someone right away and might even say they are free to go. By doing so, if they provide incriminating evidence, the officers can then arrest them and use that information against them in court.
Are Criminal Charges Automatically Dropped if the Police Did Not Read the Miranda Warning?
The criminal charges against you could proceed to court even though the police never gave the Miranda warning. The prosecution might have sufficient evidence without your statements to obtain a conviction.
What Happens If the Police Violate My Rights During an Interrogation?
If the police officers question you in custody without informing you of your rights, your criminal defense lawyer can file a motion to suppress evidence. The motion would argue that evidence gathered in violation of your constitutional rights is inadmissible in court. Inadmissible evidence cannot be used against you.
Therefore, if the police officers failed to read the Miranda warning, a judge might rule that your statements cannot be used in court. The prosecution might or might not have enough evidence to obtain a guilty verdict. The judge could dismiss the case, or the prosecutor may drop the charges.
Should I Talk to the Police or Answer Questions?
Generally, it is not in your best interest to talk to the police without a criminal defense lawyer present, even if you are innocent. It is always in your best interest to exercise your right to remain silent.
You might be required to provide your name and address to the police. However, you are not required to answer questions or make a statement. The officers may press you and continue asking questions, but you can remain silent until you have an attorney present.
You do not have to “remain silent” to invoke your constitutional rights. You may politely state that you do not want to talk to the officers or answer questions without a lawyer present. If the officers continue to ask questions, you may then remain silent.
However, you should make it clear that you want to speak with a criminal defense attorney. Merely asking whether you need a lawyer is not invoking your right to counsel. You need to state that you want to speak with a criminal defense attorney before answering any questions.
Never waive your right to legal counsel or sign any documents without a lawyer present.