Thanks to movies and television, most of us are familiar with the concept of your Miranda rights, which are based on the 1966 Supreme Court case Miranda vs. Arizona. In a nutshell, the Miranda case requires the police to advise a suspect that they have the right to remain silent, that anything they say can be used against them in a court of law, that they have the right to an attorney and to have that attorney present before answering any questions, that if they can’t afford an attorney one will be appointed for them at no cost, and the right to stop answering questions at any time if they start answering questions without an attorney present. Pretty simple stuff, right?
Like most things in the law, the practical application of Miranda is a lot more complicated. One of the more frequent questions that we get from clients is whether the police needed to read them their Miranda rights, because this doesn’t happen as regularly as TV would have you believe.
By law, the police are only required to read you your Miranda rights if you’re the subject of what’s known as a “custodial interrogation.” Now, what is and is not a custodial interrogation can be extremely fact-sensitive. For example, questions about who you are, where you’re going, what happened that brought the police to your location, and whether you’ve been drinking have been ruled to be “community caretaking” questions, and NOT subject to Miranda. Depending on the circumstances of your contact with the police, you talking to them could also be considered a “voluntary encounter” with them. This can happen if a police officer approaches you on the street and says that he’d like to ask you a few questions. If you voluntarily start talking with him, the need for him to provide you with a Miranda warning doesn’t exist, because you aren’t “in custody”.
Because the issue of whether a Miranda warning needed to be given is such a fact-sensitive situation, it’s important for you to have an attorney working on your case as soon as possible to review the facts of your encounter with the police as soon as possible. It’s also worth remembering that if your Miranda warnings weren’t properly given, that DOESN’T mean that your case is going to be dismissed. A failure to properly give you your Miranda warnings means that any statements you make to the police can’t be used as evidence against you. If the police have other evidence that they think proves your guilt, your case can still proceed to trial.
At Razumich & Associates, our goal is to make sure that each of our clients receives the personalized attention that their cases deserve so that they can make the best possible decisions on important matters affecting their future. We personally meet with everyone who sets an appointment with our office, and we will take as long as necessary to make sure that every question you have is answered as completely as possible. That’s our promise to you: we’re Lawyers Ready to Fight, and we look forward to fighting for you.