Most people can recite at least a few Miranda rights thanks to television police procedural dramas. However, fewer people understand when these rights come into play when dealing with police and what the consequences are if police fail to advise a person of these rights. Knowing when Miranda rights are required is important when it comes to dealing with situations involving police questioning.
The protections that are provided to individuals through Miranda rights are guaranteed through the Constitution's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. In a nutshell, the Fifth Amendment holds that the government cannot compel a person to give information that can be used against them in a criminal trial.
Police officers are required to advise a person of his or her Miranda rights when interrogating the person in a custodial setting. The problem usually lies in figuring out when a person is in a custodial interrogation. If the police announce to a person that he or she is under arrest, this is a clear custodial situation that requires an advisement of Miranda rights. However, a person may be in custody despite not being in handcuffs or being placed in a cell. When most people are detained by police officers they may not always be clear on whether they must keep talking to the officer, or if they can walk away. The police officer does not always tell the person whether or not he or she is free to go, and the circumstances surrounding the police interaction can better speak to whether a person is in custody.
If the police restrict a person's freedom, especially the ability to leave a situation in which the police are questioning the person, the person is likely to be in custody. The length of time a person is detained by the police also may also be an indicator of whether or not a person is in custody. If the police keep questioning a person for hours, without arresting the person and without advising the person that he or she is free to go, this is likely to be seen as a custodial interrogation. The court may also consider a youth's age, as the Supreme Court has recognized that young people may feel they have to submit to police questioning when an adult would feel free to leave. In looking to see if a person was free to leave, the courts look at the situation from a reasonable person standard, asking if a reasonable person in the situation would have felt free to leave.
If police officers do not inform a person of his or her Miranda rights in a custodial interrogation, the information provided by the person generally cannot be used against the person in a later criminal trial. There are exceptions, however, to the rule. For example, statements made in violation of Miranda can still be used in court to impeach a person's statements and can be used by police to continue their investigation even though the direct statements made are not used in court.
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If you were questioned by the police without being advised of your Miranda rights and face charges based on the information you provided, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney. Contact experienced Syracuse criminal defense attorney George F. Hildebrandt for a consultation today.