The Police Didn’t Read Me My Rights

Most of us are familiar with the Miranda Rights, either from our favorite Law and Order series or from our Civics classes.  These rights, mandated by the Constitution, were first introduced to our jurisprudence in the landmark case or Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).  Essentially, Miranda requires the police to inform an individual who is in custody of their right to remain silent as well as their right to consult with, and have an attorney present during any police-initiated interrogation.  Sounds simple enough, right?  However, throughout my practice I have had the following dialogue with my clients:

CLIENT: The police didn’t read me my rights!

ME:      They didn’t have to.

CLIENT:  What?!!

ME:      The police don’t have to read you your rights unless they question you.

CLIENT: (Confused)

The confusion from the Client in the dialogue is all-to-familiar, and may result primarily from all those Law and Order episodes where the police actually read the suspect their rights before questioning them.  But, Miranda’s scope is limited to the following: the police must inform a person of their rights ONLY if the police seek to commence “custodial interrogation.”  As the quotation marks suggest, the person must be “in custody,” that is, the suspect is no longer free to leave on his or her own accord.  Actual arrest is not the benchmark, but whether a reasonable person would feel that they were free to leave is the test used in analyzing this prong of the “custodial interrogation” definition.

Next, the police are only required to read a suspect the Miranda Rights if they seek to “interrogate,” that is question or otherwise elicit a potentially incriminating response from the suspect.  Unless the police initiate the conversation, they are not interrogating a suspect for the purpose of Miranda.  Therefore, an unprovoked statement, even at the precinct will not be suppressed by a judge.

I hope this article has cleared away some misconceptions about the Miranda Rule.  I would like to leave off with a sound piece of advice, if you are ever in the unfortunate circumstance of having been arrested or otherwise being “spoken to” by a police officer, do yourself a big favor that will save you a lot of heartache later on, tell the officer or detective that you refuse to speak with them until you have your lawyer present.  And if the officer or detective tries to convince you that you don’t need a lawyer because you aren’t under arrest, then ask to walk out the door and do so if permitted.  As a rule of thumb, nothing you ever tell a police officer can help.

Please continue to visit this Blog for further articles, and, in the meantime if you are in need of a criminal defense attorney, feel free to call Ezra C. Levy at (718) 627-4605.

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