When Police Fail to Read Your "Miranda Warnings"
Speak with a Chicago Criminal Lawyer About Your Miranda Warnings while in Custody
Criminal defense lawyers will tell you that it is a very common occurrence for a client to come into the office with a case (whether it is a felony, misdemeanor, or even a petty offense) and to tell the lawyer that they should be able to make the case "go away" because "the police didn’t read me my rights." After all, we have all watched thousands of cases on television shows dismissed for just such a failure. If only it were so simple.
While there are some possible consequences to the prosecution when police fail to follow the requirements regarding custodial interrogations as stated in the landmark Supreme Court case of Miranda vs. Arizona, such a failure on the part of the police does not always lead to dismissal of the criminal charges. In that particular case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prior to any custodial interrogation, the police shall inform the suspect of their Constitutional Rights. The Court directed that, at a minimum, you have to be told that:
- You have the right to remain silent;
- Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law;
- You have the right to have an attorney present with you during questioning;
- If you cannot afford an attorney, that one will be provided for you by the court; and
- You can stop the questioning at any time by asserting the above rights.
What are they not required to tell you? That "anything you say" includes written statements, verbal statements, gestures and facial expressions. They are also not required to be truthful to you during the questioning process, and they will often lie to you to induce you into giving them a confession.
Miranda Warnings Are Required Before Questioning
When the Supreme Court created the Miranda warnings, their intent was to give a suspect notice of their rights so that if they chose to speak to the authorities they would do so knowingly, without threats or coercion. This was ultimately designed so a witness could freely and voluntarily choose to give a statement. Since the decision originally came down, thousands of cases have turned on whether the warnings were sufficient, whether the suspect was capable of understanding them, and whether there was a voluntary, knowing waiver. Other cases involving Miranda warnings have hinged on determining whether or not, at the time of the questioning, the suspect was under arrest or in custody such that the warnings were required prior to interrogation.
Are You Under Arrest?
So, what does it mean to be "under arrest" or "in custody?" To put it plainly, this happens when, under their particular circumstances, a reasonable person would not feel that they were free to leave. This means that an officer does not have to say the actual words, "you are under arrest;" rather, all you need is the reasonable belief that your freedom of movement has been restricted, and that you are subject to direction from the officer. In that moment, you are vulnerable, and it is easy to forget that you have the rights mentioned above, which is something that the police are counting upon when they then proceed to question you. Of course, they have not "officially" arrested you, so they will try to make you feel like you are there with them voluntarily. You may not even notice their subtle shift from mere questioning to accusatory interrogation.
If this is all it takes to be considered in custody, how do you know if you are under arrest? The answer is simple: try to leave. Tell them you do not want to speak with them further, and you are done answering their questions. Tell them you want your lawyer. It is a guarantee that, if they intend to charge you, then they will announce your arrest at that time. It is then that an officer will read you the warnings and try to convince you that it is in your best interest to cooperate with them. Now you definitely need to remain silent and wait for your lawyer before speaking to them further.
Will Your Criminal or Traffic Case Be Dismissed?
Let us suppose that you have been arrested for an offense, and the officers did not, at any time, give you the Miranda warnings. This failure will not, in and of itself, result in the dismissal of the charges against you. Instead, the court will suppress the statements you have made and bar them from use as evidence in the prosecution’s Case in Chief. If you testify at trial to anything materially different from your statement, the State may use your statement to impeach your credibility, as a prior inconsistent statement under the rules of evidence.
Of course, if the State cannot meet their burden of proof without your statement in their Case in Chief, you should prevail without having to testify in the first place. Now let us suppose you made no statements before or after your arrest, and the State is not attempting to enter any into evidence against you. In that case, it does not matter that they did not read the warnings, and the case can be prosecuted without restriction based upon the other evidence they may have in their possession. An example of this might be a case where the police have video evidence of you committing the crime, fingerprint evidence, or eyewitness testimony. In this situation, the prosecution may not need evidence that you confessed to meet their burden of proof.
Let Our Attorneys Advise You
If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense, then you need an experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer on your side, like the attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC. Call us today at (800) 996-4824 for a free consultation in the confidential surroundings of our offices in Arlington Heights or Chicago.