Miranda Rights—When Police Officers Must Read Your Constitutional Rights

Many of my clients come into my office thinking their case will automatically be dismissed because an officer did not read them their Miranda Rights when they were arrested. Contrary to what is seen on TV or in movies, police officers do not necessarily have to read your Miranda Rights when arrested.

In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held that police officers must deliver a person’s rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the Constitution if the person is in police custody and is subject to police interrogation. If not, then any statements given to the police would be suppressed and not admissible as evidence.

What Constitutes Police Custody?

For Miranda purposes, police custody is when a reasonable person in your same situation would not believe he or she is free to leave the immediate area. This does not have to be proven through words used by the police officer, but can also be proven through the police officer’s actions. The person must feel that he or she is restrained to that location by the police officer and is not able to move freely. Once a person is in custody, the police officer must then give the Miranda Warning before any interrogative questions can be asked.

What Constitutes Police Interrogation?

Once in police custody, a person cannot be asked any interrogative questions without being properly mirandized. However, not all questions are considered interrogative in nature and can be asked by the police without giving a Miranda warning. An interrogation begins when the police ask questions which could be used against someone in a criminal proceeding.

For instance, imagine the police have arrested you for a DWI and have placed you into an interview room at the police station to administer tests as to whether you are intoxicated or not. The person is clearly in custody, but until he or she is asked interrogative questions, the officers do not have to read the Miranda Rights. The officer may begin to ask the person his name, address, and social security number because these questions or statements are not interrogative in nature.  The courts have also held that the police officer does not have to mirandize you prior to a field sobriety evaluation or a request for a breath or blood test.

Miranda Warning

I am sure many of you have heard a version of a Miranda warning either from a personal experience, a television show, or a movie. Police officers must administer a statement similar to the one listed below. It does not have to be in these exact words, but it must reasonably convey to a subject his rights as required by Miranda. Florida v. Powell, 130 S.Ct. 1195 (2010).

“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 speak to an attorney and have him present while you are being questioned. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning. You can decide at any time to exercise these rights and not answer any questions or make any statements. Do you understand these rights I have explained to you?”

Another important aspect of the Miranda Warning is that the police officer must give you the warning in the language that you speak and write. This is very prevalent in Texas considering the large Hispanic and Latino/a population.

The importance behind the Miranda Warning is that if it is not given to you while in custody and interrogative questions are being given, then any incriminating statements that you made could potentially be suppressed in court. This means that if you gave a confession without being Mirandized, or even made a negative statement that would look bad to a jury, it could be suppressed so that the State cannot use that against you in court.

There are so many rules which accompany Miranda Warnings, so it is always important to follow police orders and remain silent when police officers begin asking questions.

When a person is actually considered in custody and when a person is actually being interrogated may well be the most litigated areas of criminal law. The judgments of the court and the rulings on these matters can have serious implications and consequences on each case.

It is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who recognizes when a person is in police custody and an interrogation ensues. This could lead to the difference of winning and losing a case. If you have questions about a criminal case or a potential Miranda violation, call Stephen Handy today at (817) 284-2262.

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