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Miranda Rights in Criminal Prosecutions

Anyone who's ever watched American television, which includes everyone who grew up and or lives here, and many more people in addition, know that they are entitled to have their "rights" read to them when they are arrested. In many cases, one of the first things our clients say to us is "they didn't read me my rights."

The "rights", which everyone knows also under the technical term - Miranda Rights - arose from the United States Supreme Court case entitled Miranda vs. Arizona. In the Miranda case, the Supreme Court set down the law that suspects in custody must be notified of the right to an attorney and the right to be free from questioning, i.e., to shut up and not answer any questions.

So what is the impact if the police have failed to read someone their Miranda rights?

Well the first thing we look at in analyzing whether we can make a good defense out of the lack of Miranda rights is whether our client was actually entitled to have the rights read. Only those persons who werein custody are entitled to have their rights read. "Custody" is not limited in its definition to most obvious - that the door to the jail cell has slammed. It includes less severe cases of "custody" than that. It essentially means that a person is not free to leave from the police at the time of the questioning. The question of whether a person is free to leave is an easy one when the aforementioned jail cell door is slammed shut, or when a suspect is sitting in the back of a police car with handcuffs on. It is less clear when someone is standing talking to a police officer at the side of the road, or when police officer has come to a person's home to question them. The farther a person gets away from being in actual police custody, the less likely it is that he is entitled to have his "rights "read to him.

The second thing we look at and analyzing whether the failure to read Miranda rights will impact our defense, is whether the person, i.e., our client, confessed to a crime or made any other incriminating statements during the police interrogation. If we find that our client said something incriminating during interrogation, was in custody at the time, and that police failed to read the Miranda rights, we will immediately file a Motion to Suppress the statements that our client made to the police. Suppression is the remedy for a violation of Miranda. There's not necessarily a right to have the case dismissed, and there's no punishment that is imposed upon the police officer, apart from the suppression. But there will be a court order precluding the police or prosecutor from using any statements that were made in violation of Miranda rights.