Miranda Rights: What Are They?

How many times have you seen a TV show or read a novel where the fugitive was apprehended and taken in—without any preliminaries?

At that point in the show’s scenario, of course, the script usually calls for the protagonist to complain that his or her Miranda Rights weren’t read. And, in the story, this might result in their being released.

In reality, this is not the freedom-making loophole which many suspects think it is.

Yes, your Miranda Rights ARE valuable, and they MUST be read while you are in police custody. Otherwise, your verbal statements cannot, for the most part, be used by the prosecutor as evidence against you.

Are There Any Exceptions?

Yes. Although it’s pretty much set in stone that, if you are the suspect, you must be read your Miranda Rights before anything you say can be used against you, it’s also pretty much set in stone that there will be mitigating, extenuating circumstances, in some cases!

For instance, if, during an interrogation, it’s determined that either one of the following situations apply, no Miranda Rights will need to have been read for evidence to be admitted.

1. There’s some sort of public emergency underway — For instance, if, in the course of questioning, it’s determined that a wide swath of people are at high risk for injury of one kind or another, the Miranda Rights will not need to have been read. Even if the questioning officer neglects to first read the suspect his or her Miranda Rights, this crucial “emergency” evidence will likely not be overlooked or prohibited;

2. When the safety of the police officers is at stake – A suspect may make a statement about something, a weapon, say, which may have put the arresting officers at peril. Let’s say that a suspect was observed to be menacing onlookers with a gun which is known to be loaded—and that the suspect no longer appears to be in possession of this weapon. If, prior to reading the suspect his or her Miranda Rights, an officer extracts information on the whereabouts of the gun, it may be deemed admissible evidence in court, due to the fact that the officers acted not only to protect the public, but also in consideration of their own safety;

3. Evidence Revealed during Booking which is Of Pivotal/Exceptional Importance – Sometimes information which comes up during bookings is looked at as inordinately informative. Remember that bookings are not actual interrogations; in such cases, it cannot be inferred that an attempt was made to elicit testimony or incriminating information. During the booking process, simple answers are provided by the suspect as a matter of rote. If this “simple” information is deemed to be of extreme importance, the Miranda Rights may not need to have been read. For instance, while giving his or her name, the suspect may reveal an affiliation or connection with a group generally perceived to be extremely dangerous, or provide information which is very relevant to the crime in question. In such cases, such information will probably be allowed in court.

4. In cases where officers who respond to a call for help have formed a strong impression about a suspicious person, and act on it. The officers may choose to frisk and detain a suspect in order to protect lives, or personal property. In other words, the officers weren’t trying to elicit a confession, or to place a person under arrest, or to retrieve items which turn out to be evidentiary. This can happen in a case where officers responding to a 911 call run into a suspicious looking person who is then ID’d as dangerous by another law enforcement personnel, or is fingered as someone who acted in a suspicious manner, in connection with that 911 call. This turn of events may result in evidence which will more likely than not be admissible in court.

So Suspects Shouldn’t Rely On Hearing Their Miranda Rights Read, Right?

Right. Criminal attorneys often counsel their clients to not rely entirely on hearing their rights read during police questioning, since there have been a series of exceptions applied in trials throughout the nation at various times. Instead, many such attorneys advise their clients to consider invoking the right to remain silent, and the right to consult with an attorney.

What ARE The Miranda Rights, Exactly?

The Miranda Rights are expressed as follows:

  1. You have the right to remain silent;
  2. Your statements—if you choose to make any—can all be held against you in a court of law;
  3. While you are being questioned, you have every right to arrange for a lawyer to be present, so that your rights may be preserved; and if you
  4. Can’t afford a lawyer and feel that you need one, you will be assigned one.

What If The Suspect Is Already In Jail? Do They Still Have To Be Read the Miranda Rights?

Yes. The locale has nothing to do with the suspect’s rights. The only prerequisite is that the suspect be detained, or deprived of their freedom.

My Boyfriend Wasn’t In Police Custody When They Began Questioning Him. They Didn’t Read Him His Miranda Rights, However. Should They Have?

No. Just because a suspect is being questioned doesn’t mean that he or she is under arrest. As long as the suspect is free to leave, he or she is not under arrest, and is therefore not required to be read his or her Miranda Rights.

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