Get It Thrown Out! They Didn’t Read Me My Rights
It’s not true. I don’t know when it started or who first perpetrated this legal nonsense, but contrary to popular belief a law enforcement officer does not have to read you your Miranda rights when they are arresting you. Miranda is not a necessary component of an arrest- - only probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime.
I cannot remember how many times I have had a client tell me “well, you know, they didn’t read me my rights. So, you can get this thrown out, right?” as if the no-reading-them-their-rights is some sort of legal defense. Having been down this road a few too many times, I usually respond the same way, “did you make any statements to the police?” The answer is usually “no.” And then the shocking answer, “then it does not matter that they did not ‘read you rights.’” And then consternation and disbelief begin as we continue the interview.
I think that it has a lot to do with the crime dramas and police procedural television shows of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Many people have this mistaken belief that if the police do not “read them their rights” that the case has to be “thrown out of court” and dismissed. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth.
“Your rights” usually refers to “your Miranda” warnings which comes out of the holding of Miranda v. Arizona.[i] The warning sounds like this:
You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of our questions. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for you without cost and before any questioning. You have the right to use any of these rights at any time you want during this interview.
The idea is to warn a suspect before he or she makes a statement to law enforcement that is going to be used in court to convict them.
A confession is like no other evidence. Indeed, “the defendant's own confession is probably the most probative and damaging evidence that can be admitted against him.... [T]he admissions of a defendant come from the actor himself, the most knowledgeable and unimpeachable source of information about his past conduct. Certainly, confessions have profound impact on the jury, so much so that we may justifiably doubt its ability to put them out of mind even if told to do so.” (citations omitted) While some statements by a defendant may concern isolated aspects of the crime or may be incriminating only when linked to other evidence, a full confession in which the defendant discloses the motive for and means of the crime may tempt the jury to rely upon that evidence alone in reaching its decision. In the case of a coerced confession such as that given by [the defendant to the detective], the risk that the confession is unreliable, coupled with the profound impact that the confession has upon the jury, requires a reviewing court to exercise extreme caution before determining that the admission of the confession at trial was harmless.[ii]
The warnings only apply to “custodial interrogations.” “In custody” is a legal term of art.[iii] usually refers to being detained and not “free to disregard” the law enforcement officer. In some instances, it can mean being handcuffed; in some instances, it can mean being formally arrested and booked into a jail facility. It all depends on the particular circumstances of the detention. On the other hand, if the suspect is not in custody, then Miranda does not apply. Period. So, if a suspect confesses to a crime and is not “in custody,” then law enforcement has not violated the constitution (and the confession will be offered at a trial against the suspect).
The second prong of the analysis deals with “interrogation” or questioning. The case law has interpreted this aspect of the analysis to mean that the police have to be actively questioning the suspect while in custody. So, if a recently arrested person while being processed into a jail facility decides to causally confess to the booking officer that he committed the offense he was charged with, then no Miranda violation. In that instance, the confession can be offered against the defendant because Miranda was not required because the statement was not made in response to questioning.
Miranda warnings are an extremely complex constitutional criminal issue. There is no simple, one-size-fits-all formula to apply to a case and each analysis must be made on a case-by-case basis. Even good attorneys analyze Miranda wrong from time to time. Like anything else, if you were read or were not read your Miranda warnings in conjunction with a recent arrest, then you need the most experienced attorney in understanding Miranda that you can afford to represent you. I am board-certified in criminal trial and have the experience to sort these complex Miranda issues out. Please give me a call.
Anthony Candela is a Board-Certified attorney. He opened the Candela Law Firm, P.A., in 2014 and handles primarily criminal trials and appeals (both state and federal). He received his J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law in 2000 and his B.A. in Political Science from King’s College in 1996. He is recognized as a three-time, board-certified attorney by the Florida Bar in Criminal Trial (2008-2023). He is also admitted to the Middle District of Florida and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal. #candelalawfirm #agoodtampadefenselawyer
Call Anthony Candela at (813) 417-3645 office 24/7/365 for a free consultation or visit on the web www.candelalawfirm.com for further information.
The purpose of this blog is purely education/information and should not viewed as creating any attorney-client privilege between the reader and author.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, then please feel free to leave me a comment below and thank you reading this blog article.
[i] Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 471 (1966)
[ii] Arizona v. Fulminante, 499 U.S. 279, 296 (1991)
[iii] A “legal term of art” in its simplest formulation means “it depends.” It depends on the specific facts and circumstances at the time. Although the definition is annoying, it is the cleanest way to describe the definition. There are many legal concepts that can be defined as “legal terms of art.” For instance, intent is a huge, amorphous definition that “depends” entirely on the particular facts. Change the facts, even slightly, the answer potentially changes. Think: 2 + 2 = 4. Change the facts to 2 + 3 which no longer equals for 4, but now equals 5. Change the facts, change the answer.