When do the Police Have to “Read Me My Rights?”

We’ve all seen it in countless movies and police TV shows: that dramatic moment when the detective tells the suspect, “You have the right to remain silent…” But it can be confusing for the viewer to know when and why this occurs, and whether the actor is reading the other actor his rights because it is the legally accurate time for that to happen or if it just makes for a good cliffhanger to lead to the commercial break. Aside from being a dramatic moment, the police are constitutionally required to read you your Miranda rights in certain cases, and if they fail to do so, anything you tell them might not be admissible against you in court. Below we discuss your Miranda rights, when they must be read, and what you should do if you are talking to police regardless of whether they read you “your rights.”

What Exactly Are Your Miranda Rights?

The name Miranda comes from the 1966 US Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona in which the court held that, before a defendant’s statements given to police during a custodial interrogation can be used against him, the prosecution must show that the defendant was properly made aware of certain rights under the US Constitution. The Miranda rights include the statements that:

  • The defendant has the right to remain silent
  • Anything the defendant says to police can be used against him in court
  • The defendant has a right to an attorney
  • If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed

When Must Miranda Rights Be Read?

The Supreme Court has held that these four statements must be read to a defendant when he is subject to “custodial interrogation.” Many people mistakenly think that a defendant must only be read his rights when he is placed under arrest (and that is often when we see them read in television shows), and while this can be an appropriate time for them to be read, one should not confuse custodial interrogation with being arrested.

Custodial interrogation essentially means that the police are questioning you while you are in custody, which means you are not free to leave. This does not mean you have to be handcuffed, in a police car, a station, or any other physical spot. Whether you are actually in custodial interrogation can be ambiguous, and courts will look to a variety of factors in deciding whether a reasonable person might think they were being detained by the police, such as:

  • The number of police officers questioning you
  • Physical restraints such as an officer guarding a door or officers sitting on both sides of you
  • Whether the police were questioning you as a suspect or witness
  • How long the questioning lasted
  • What the police said and what you said
  • Where it occurred (e.g. if it happened in the police station, etc.)

What Your Miranda Rights Means

If the police do not give you your Miranda rights while you are in a custodial interrogation, then anything you say to them prior to your rights being read is not admissible in court.

This is a great protection for defendants, but the fact of the matter is that many people simply waive their Miranda rights once being told of them, which can greatly increase the risk of a successful criminal prosecution. Under no circumstances should you waive your Miranda rights. All too often what happens is that the police get information from a person without reading the Miranda rights, and then, once the Miranda rights are read, the police simply resume their questioning of the person. If the person keeps talking they may be deemed to have waived their Miranda rights and – just as the TV-friendly statement goes – anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law.

Ask to Speak to an Attorney Before Talking to Police

Many people misunderstand the Miranda rights to mean that they only have a right to an attorney after their rights are read, but this is flat-out wrong. You have the right under the Fifth Amendment to have an attorney at any time you are speaking to police. By waiving this right, you place yourself in danger while making the police officer’s job of gathering incriminating information much easier.

Experienced Virginia Criminal Defense Attorneys In Your Corner

The criminal defense attorneys at Select Law Partners in Fredericksburg, Virginia,  understand what you are going through and the stress and anxiety you are facing, and we will work with you to do whatever it takes to protect your reputation and your future. Contact us today to schedule a consultation regarding your situation.

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Select Law Partners, PLLC

Legal issues can turn your life upside down. Our experienced attorneys serve clients in a variety of divorce and family law matters as well as criminal defense. To better help you plan for the future, we have significant experience with estate planning and asset protection. At Select Law, we provide our clients with customized solutions to their most challenging problems.

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