No one wants to be accused of a crime. Yet people make mistakes in some cases, and suspects are wrongly accused. In this country, laws exist to protect the rights of citizens who are accused of a crime.
When someone is detained and questioned, the officer must “read them their rights,” like you have seen in movies or on TV. You may have heard the term Miranda rights, but do you know what they are and why they are important?
If not, it is time to understand what it means to be “Mirandized” and clear up common misconceptions about this process so you can make informed choices if you are every charged with a crime in New Jersey.
The Purpose of Miranda Warnings
Miranda rights serve two important purposes:
- They ensure statements made during legal law enforcement interrogations are admissible.
- They protect individuals accused of crimes from self-incrimination before they have the chance to consult with an attorney.
Miranda v. Arizona
Miranda rights, or Miranda warnings, are named for the landmark Supreme Court decision in the 1966 case Miranda v. Arizona. Miranda v. Arizona addressed four earlier cases that all involving custodial interrogations where defendants were questioned by law enforcement in seclusion without a lawyer.
None of the defendants in these cases received a full and clear warning of their rights prior to questioning. All of the defendants made oral admissions under interrogation, and three of them signed statements that were later admitted at trial.
The Fifth Amendment of the United State Constitution establishes several rights related to civil and criminal proceedings. Among these rights is the protection against self-incrimination. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Court held that a defendant in custody cannot be questioned without being made are of their rights. Without a Miranda warning, the defendant’s statements may be deemed inadmissible at trial.
Rights Included in the Miranda Warning
The language used in Miranda warnings may vary slightly from state to state. Generally, most Miranda warnings use some version of the following language:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me at this time?”
How Should I Respond?
It is always prudent to seek guidance from a criminal lawyer if you arrested. If you do not want to answer questions, tell the officer that you want an attorney. Once you do, the interrogation must stop.
Requesting your attorney is considered invoking your Miranda rights. From there, law enforcement must give you the opportunity to meet with an attorney and have them present during any future questioning.
It is important that you state your intent out loud. You can say something like, “I choose to remain silent” or, “I will not speak without an attorney.” If you simply remain silent, you are effectively consenting to be questioned without a lawyer. Your response must be clear, and your response must be verbal.
On the other side, if you waive your rights and agree to being interrogated in custody without an attorney, your waiver must be:
In other words, you must understand this decision and the impact it can have on your case. Your decision must be given freely, and without coercion.
When Are Police Required to Read the Miranda Warning?
Police and other law enforcement agents are required to read Miranda rights to someone in custody before they begin questioning.
But custody does not always mean someone is handcuffed, in the back of a police car, or detained at the police station. Custody is implied in situations where a reasonable person would conclude they are not free to leave.
What If the Officer Did Not Read Me My Rights?
It is a common misconception that if a police officer does not read a person their rights, any incriminating evidence against them will be tossed and their case dismissed. This is not the always true.
As noted above, Miranda warnings are only required prior to interrogation of a suspect in custody. In a legal context, direct questioning consists of law enforcement words or actions they should understand are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.
If someone is detained and handcuffed and voluntarily yells out, “I shot my neighbor,” that statement is admissible even without a Miranda warning. That statement is admissible because the suspect was not being interrogated at the time. If a suspect is not being interrogated and they make a spontaneous statement, the prosecution can introduce it in court.
Now, if you are clearly being questioned about a specific criminal offense, and the officer does not read your Miranda rights, your statements may not be held against you. A formal arrest is not a requirement to trigger Miranda rights. Miranda warnings are only necessary when the defendant knows they are being interrogated by a government agent.
Was I Under Arrest if the Officer Did Not Read Me My Rights?
This is another important point to cover. It is possible to be arrested even if police have not read your Miranda warning. Law enforcement is only required to read Miranda rights to a suspect who is both in custody and subject to interrogation.
Miranda Rights Cases Are Complex
Every case is unique. Miranda rights cases often fall into a gray area. Law enforcement can say they did not read a suspect their rights because they were not going to question them.
A suspect may not realize they were in custody when they made an incriminating statement. In this case, the courts are left to determine whether someone was in custody at the time and should have been read their Miranda rights.
To make this determination, the courts consider:
- The location, time, and length of detention.
- The degree and nature of pressure used to detain the individual.
- To what degree the officer made it clear the individual was being questioned regarding a criminal offense.
Law Enforcement Cannot Use Intimidation to Get a Confession
Another gray area in criminal cases involves the tactics police and other agents use to get suspects to confess. If it can be shown an officer encouraged, enticed, or solicited, or use non-verbal techniques to compel a defendant to incriminate themselves, that admission may not be admissible. Law enforcement officers have guidelines for conducting investigations.
If you have been accused of a serious crime and have questions about police conduct at the time of your arrest and questioning, consult with a reputable defense lawyer about your situation.
A criminal record can have a long-term impact on your employment, education, and housing. A skilled attorney can determine if your rights were violated at any stage of the criminal process and build the strongest defense possible to possibly have your charges reduced or dismissed.
Belmar Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law. P.C., Protects the Rights of Clients Across New Jersey and New York
It is easy to feel intimidated and even scared if you are accused of a crime. But you do not have to face the criminal justice system alone. Our knowledgeable Belmar criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law P.C. believe everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense against all charges. Call us today at 732-308-0200 or contact the firm online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Freehold, our team serves clients across the region including East Brunswick, Middletown, Toms River, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Ocean County, New Jersey along with Brooklyn and New York, New York.