Police Didn’t Read Me My Rights
Have you recently been arrested? Did the police fail to read you your rights? Is this failure helpful to your case? The answer is “it depends.” This short article will provide you with an overview of the important constitutional law and criminal procedures regarding rights advisements.
If you have ever watched a television show or movie with a law theme, then you know your basic rights:
(1) you have the right to remain silent;
(2) anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law; and
(3) you have the right to an attorney present during police questioning.
These rights, contained in the standard police rights advisement in every jurisdiction in the country, are called Miranda warnings. The term Miranda comes from a seminal U.S. Supreme Court case called Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). This important legal decision discusses the requirements of when police must advise an individual of these rights.
Police are only required to provide a right advisement when two conditions are met. The first condition is that you must be in police custody. You may be in custody under a variety of circumstances. This includes obvious scenarios such as in handcuffs, in prison, in a jail or holding cell, at a police station, or seated in the backseat of a police car, whether cuffed or uncuffed. Less obvious scenarios of being in custody include being a driver or passenger in a vehicle, vessel or aircraft stopped by police, a pedestrian stopped by police or any other circumstance where, because of police presence and conduct, a reasonable person would not feel free to leave. Being in police custody, regardless of form or duration, is the first requirement to trigger the Miranda rights warning requirement.
The second condition required for a Miranda rights warning is that you must be subjected to either questioning or conduct by police that may reasonably lead a person to make incriminating statements. Such questioning may be formal or informal, recorded or unrecorded and verbal or written. The location of such questioning may be at the police station, along the roadside, or any other location where police ask questions.
If the two Miranda conditions are met and police properly give a rights warning, you have two choices:
(1) invoke your rights by remaining silent and not answering any questions or making any statements or
(2) waive your rights by agreeing to speak with police.
You best option, if questioned by police, is to politely tell them that you wish to refrain from speaking with them or answering any questions until you have consulted with an attorney. This is the smartest response you could possibly provide when a police officer seeks to ask questions. This is the only way to protect yourself.
Contrary to popular belief, police may legally lie and misrepresent in order to elicit statements and responses from a suspect under questioning. This is a common law enforcement tactic. Police undergo special training and even attend interrogation school to learn how to best use lies, misrepresentations and false promises to elicit incriminating statements. Do not fall victim to these tactics. Play it safe, do not speak with police or answer any questions until you have spoken with an experienced criminal defense attorney. You must look out for your own interests first, as the police will not do so. The job of law enforcement is to collect evidence, build cases and make arrests.
Protect yourself by keeping your mouth shut and you will avoid providing police with words or statements that will later be used against you. If you have nothing to hide and wish to be completely truthful with police, it is best to first speak with a lawyer. Police are human just like civilians, which means they make mistakes too. Do not make any innocent statements without first consulting a lawyer, as your statements may be misunderstood, misconstrued or taken out of context and later used against you in a criminal prosecution. Remaining silent may make the difference between your being arrested or not, prosecuted or not charged, or being found guilty or acquitted.
If police fail to advise you of your rights where required and you make incriminating statements, these statements may not be used against you in a later criminal prosecution. Preventing use of these statements against you in court requires a skilled criminal defense lawyer to write, file, argue and win a motion to suppress or exclude these statements from the case. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, and you provided statements to police under circumstances where you believe Miranda warnings were required, but not given, call Criminal Defense Lawyer John L. Calcagni III today for a free consultation.