You’ve heard of “Miranda Rights,” but what does it really mean?
In short: Your right to remain silent during custody and interrogation. In length, it is part of a preventive criminal procedure rule that law enforcement are required to administer to protect an individual, who is in custody and subject to direct questioning or its functional equivalent from a violation of his or her Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. The wording used when a person is read the Miranda Warning, also known as being ‘Mirandized,’ is clear and direct:
“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?”
First we must define what “custody” and “interrogation” mean. Custody means formal arrest or the deprivation of freedom to an extent associated with formal arrest. Interrogation means explicit questioning or actions that are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response. It is important to note that the Supreme Court did not specify the exact wording to use when informing a suspect of his/her rights. However, the Court did create a set of guidelines that must be followed. The ruling states:
The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he/she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he/she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he/she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him/her.
IMPORTANT. Police are only required to Mirandize a suspect if they intend to interrogate that person under custody. Arrests CAN occur without the Miranda Warning being given. If the police later decide to interrogate the suspect, the warning must be given at that time. If this does not occur then there is chance of a case being overturned in court due to poor procedure on the police’s part.
The Miranda rule applies to the use of testimonial evidence in criminal proceedings that is the product of custodial police interrogation. The Miranda right to counsel and right to remain silent are derived from the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment (that no one has to testify against himself in any criminal proceedings). Therefore, for Miranda to apply, six requirements must be fulfilled:
- Evidence must have been gathered.
If the suspect did not make a statement during the interrogation the fact that he was not advised of his Miranda rights is of no importance.
- The evidence must be testimonial.
This is defined under the Fifth Amendment as testimonial statements that mean communications that explicitly or implicitly relate a factual assertion [an assertion of fact or belief] or disclose information. Note that requiring a suspect to participate in identification procedures such as giving handwriting, fingerprints, DNA samples, hair samples, and dental impressions is not within the Miranda rule. Physical or real evidence is non-testimonial and not protected by the Fifth Amendment self-incrimination clause.
- Evidence must have been obtained while the suspect was in custody.
The evidence must have been obtained while the suspect was in custody because the Miranda rule’s purpose is to protect suspects from the compulsion inherent in the police-dominated atmosphere attendant to arrest.
- Evidence must have been the product of interrogation.
The evidence must have been the product of interrogation. A defendant who seeks to challenge the admissibility of a statement under Miranda must show that the statement was “prompted by police conduct that constituted ‘interrogation.’”
- The interrogation must have been conducted by state-agents.
To establish a violation of the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights, the defendant must show state action, so the interrogation must have been conducted by state-agents. If the interrogation was conducted by a person known by the suspect to be a law enforcement officer, then the state action requirement is met. On the other hand, when a private citizen obtains a statement there is no state action—regardless of the custodial circumstances surrounding the statement.
- Evidence must be offered by the state during a criminal prosecution.
Under the exclusionary rule, a Miranda-defective statement cannot be used by the prosecution as substantive evidence of guilt. However, the Fifth Amendment exclusionary rule applies only to criminal proceedings.
On a final note, remember that you can choose to remain silent at any time during the interrogation process and once you do, the interrogation must cease. The “Miranda Rights” readings are in place to uphold your 5th Amendment protections. If you believe this has been violated, please contact RP Defense Law for a consultation.