Miranda Rights: What They Are, How They Work, and What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
What Are Miranda Rights?
Many people associate the term “Miranda Rights” with a potential get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s a common misconception that if you are not read your Miranda Rights, which all evidence will be thrown out, and your criminal case will automatically be dismissed. In some cases, the suppression of the defendant’s statement may lead to a dismissal of the charge. Law enforcement officers often employ deliberate tactics to obtain incriminating information without violating your Miranda Rights.
Miranda Rights, established in 1965 following a Supreme Court decision in the case of Miranda vs. the State of Arizona, are designed to protect an individual’s constitutional right to protection against self-incrimination in all cases, as set forth by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. Miranda Rights are a set of facts that an officer must read to you after your arrest before he or she may question you. The arresting officer must convey the following information to you:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- If you do say anything, it can be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to have a lawyer present during any questioning.
- If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you so desire.
When does an officer have to read someone their Miranda Rights?
Law enforcement officers are required to read a person their Miranda Rights only after they have been arrested and taken into custody. They may not question an individual taken into custody without reading them their Miranda Rights first. Any information gathered by law enforcement after they are arrested, but before they are read their rights will not be considered admissible in a court of law.
Are there times when an officer does not have to read someone their Miranda Rights?
An officer is only required to read and individual their Miranda after they have been placed under arrest. Whether a person has liberty to leave (i.e. arrested) is often debated and very fact specific. Any incriminating evidence gathered against someone before his or her arrest is admissible in a court of law. For example, when an officer pulls someone over for a DUI and performs field sobriety tests and a Breathalyzer test, most the evidence against the arrested individual was gathered before the officer makes the arrest, and is therefore considered admissible.
Law enforcement officers will frequently refrain from arresting an individual to gather as much evidence as possible against them before making an arrest. People are generally more willing to volunteer incriminating information during questioning if they believe that they are not in danger of being taken into custody. Also, the majority of people do not know that you are not legally required to answer questions asked by a police officer before they arrest you, and that you cannot be arrested for refusing to answer questions.
Can statements obtained when police violate the Miranda rule be used against me?
Generally speaking, any statements made to law enforcement by an individual who has not been read their Miranda rights after an arrest are not admissible in court. There are, however, exceptions to the rule that provide a lot of leeway for law enforcement officers to obtain information. Some exceptions include but are not limited to:
- Matters of public safety. If interrogation without issuing Miranda warnings leads to officers finding a weapon, the evidence may be admissible in court.
- Tangible evidence. Physical evidence, stolen property, or illegal substances are not statements and unless they were found based on an illegal admission they could be admissible.
- Witnesses. If a statement is made in violation of the Miranda rule that leads police to a witness, that person may testify against the accused in court.
- Inevitable discovery. If police would have eventually discovered tangible evidence on their own, that evidence may hold up in court even if it was obtained before an individual was read their Miranda Rights.
Failure to be notified of your Miranda Rights does not necessarily mean that your statement will get thrown out in court. Law enforcement officers are well aware of what Miranda rules entail, and they are not only cautious to play by the rules, they are strategic about ways to bend them without actually breaking them. You should always consult with a lawyer before giving a statement to law enforcement.
Whether you’ve committed a crime or not, if you are being questioned by a law enforcement officer before arrest, you are NOT required to answer questions. Once you are taken into custody, whether you’ve been read your Miranda Rights or not, the best route is not to say anything until you have secured legal representation. Hiring an attorney before you make statements that could inadvertently become incriminating or misconstrued is imperative if you have been placed into police custody.
At Andersen, Tate & Carr, our attorneys are dedicated to reaching the best possible outcome for our clients. Our criminal defense attorneys, Patrick McDonough and Trinity Hundredmark, have combined experience of more than 30 years representing clients facing criminal charges in Georgia. For more information, or to request a case evaluation, contact our law office at 1-770-822-0900.