“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
“I watched last night’s TV crime drama episode. The guy in that episode got off because they didn’t read him his rights. I wasn’t read my rights, so this should be an easy case for you, just show up as my attorney at the Willoughby Municipal Court and get my case dismissed.”
How many times have criminal law attorneys heard this? Too many to count and unfortunately it is very far from the truth. First, any law enforcement official is only required to advise you of your Miranda rights statement prior to an interrogation. An officer does not have to provide the Miranda warning simply upon arrest. Interrogation does not include questions about name, age, address, etc. An interrogation occurs once a person is in custody and an officer is asking questions related to the alleged crime or criminal conduct.
This is important to understand as many individuals freely discuss items with officers as they are being arrested without being questioned by officers. Many others sit in the back of a police vehicle talking to others in the vehicle or even making phone calls discussing the facts of the case. Cameras are recording while you sit in the back of the police car. All these comments can be used as evidence even without receiving any Miranda warning. If you find yourself being arrested, just answer basic identifying questions and then REMAIN SILENT.
If you do wish to waive your Miranda rights, you have to specifically indicate that you are waiving the rights. Simply remaining silent is not a waiver as it does not indicate whether an individual understands the rights or not. The individual may not speak English or may be hard of hearing.
So, what will happen in real life as opposed to TV if someone was not read their rights? Some evidence may be excluded from being presented in court. This will require a motion, typically a Motion to Suppress, being filed with the court requesting such evidence be excluded. The court will hold a hearing on the motion and allow each party to present arguments as to whether or not the motion should be granted. If the court grants the motion, the prosecution will be prevented from presenting the evidence during a trial. On rare occasions, this may be the only evidence the prosecution is relying on to prove the case and therefore will file a dismissal. However, that is an exception, not the rule. In most cases, the prosecutor has obtained enough additional evidence to proceed with the trial without that particular evidence.
In recent years, it’s important to note that courts have allowed evidence after imperfect Miranda warnings given by officers. Some courts have reasoned that the prevalence of knowledge of the Miranda rights in society along with an imperfect Miranda statement is still enough for a defendant to understand his rights.
If you believe that your Miranda rights were violated, be sure to contact the Bangerter Law Office for a consultation on your case.