One of the most popular statements I hear when I get involved in a criminal case is, “they never read me my rights. So they can’t prosecute me, right?” Unfortunately, the answer is no. So when are the police required to read you your rights, and what does it mean for you if they forget?
Let’s start by explaining where the term Miranda rights come from. Miranda v. Arizona, is a Supreme Court decision from 1966. Miranda was arrested, taken to the police station, and interrogated. Miranda was never informed of his right to an attorney, but he was interrogated for hours. Following the interrogation, a signed confession was obtained from Miranda and he was convicted. On appeal, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction after considering the “admissibility of statements obtained from an individual who is subject to custodial police interrogation.”Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, (1966).
So, when are Miranda Rights required? Miranda rights involve the 5th Amendment’s protection against self incrimination, and they are only required when a subject is in police custody; they are asked questions; that are intended to be used in prosecution. All three of these circumstances must be present to require Miranda Rights to be read.
1) Police custody;
2) Questions are asked;
3) That are intended to be used in a trial against the person making the statement.
What happens when Miranda Rights are required but not read? Does that mean the case gets dismissed? No. It means that the statement can be suppressed, but you have to request the court to suppress it. The court will hold a hearing to listen to arguments and evidence from both sides. Then the court will decide whether or not to suppress the statement. The case can still proceed as long as there is sufficient evidence other than the statement. A successful pretrial strategy involves attempting to suppress evidence until there is none left to sustain a conviction.