Miranda Rights

June 25, 2013

By: DeLand Attorney Richard “Jake” Jackson

What are Miranda rights?

In 1966, the U. S. Supreme Court determined in the case of Miranda v. Arizona that a criminal suspect who is in police custody must be advised of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and his Sixth Amendment right to an attorney before the police would be allowed to question him.

What are the Miranda warnings?

Although the exact wording may vary, the Miranda warnings consist of the following:  You have the right to remain silent and anything you say may be used as evidence against you.  You have a right to talk to an attorney and to have an attorney with you now or at any time during questioning.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you.  If at any time you wish to stop talking or to have an attorney present, all questioning will be stopped at your request.

When are the Miranda warnings required to be given?

The warnings must be given prior to questioning if the suspect is “in custody” and the police intend to question him.  If the suspect is not “in custody,” or if the police do not question him, there is no requirement to give the warnings.

When is a suspect “in custody?”

A suspect is considered to be in custody when a reasonable person in the same position would not believe that he is free to leave.  The suspect does not have to be handcuffed or told that he is “under arrest.”  The court will consider all of the surrounding circumstances to determine whether a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave.

What happens if the required warnings were not given before a suspect in custody is interrogated?

If the required warnings were not given, any statements made by the suspect would not be admissible in court.  The defendant could file a Motion To Suppress both the statements themselves and any other evidence that the statements led the police to.  (However, if the court determines that it was inevitable that the police would have discovered the other evidence even without the defendant’s statements, then that other evidence will not be suppressed.)

Can the defendant file a Motion To Suppress his statements and other evidence that his statements led to if the police did administer the Miranda warnings prior to questioning?

Very often, the answer is Yes.  Even if it appears that the defendant waived his Miranda rights by answering the police questions, he can challenge whether he has made a valid waiver of his rights.  It is the State’s burden to prove that a defendant’s waiver of Miranda rights was a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his rights.  The court will review the totality of the circumstances, including any coercion, trickery, improper threats or promises, and any other factor affecting the defendant’s ability to understand his rights and to make an informed and voluntary decision to waive them.

How can a suspect invoke his Miranda rights?

The courts have held that simply remaining silent during questioning is not sufficient to invoke your rights so that all further questioning must cease.  In order to stop all questioning after the Miranda warnings have been given, you must clearly state that you are not willing to make any statement or that you want to talk to an attorney.

If I invoke my right to remain silent, can the State use that against me in trial?

If the Miranda warnings have been given, or if they should have been given because you were questioned while in custody, then your silence cannot be used against you in court.  The prosecution may not even comment on your silence or suggest that you should have said something if you were truly not guilty.  However, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in Salinas v. Texas that where a suspect was not in custody and he refused to answer questions by simply remaining silent, the State was allowed to present testimony and argument to the jury about the suspect’s refusal to answer police questions.  (If the suspect had stated that he was refusing to answer based on the Fifth Amendment, the prosecution probably would not have been allowed to mention it.)

Do Miranda right apply to juveniles?

Yes, and the courts have said that extra care must be taken to assure that the juvenile suspect understands his rights, and if he waives them that the waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.  In Florida, the juvenile should be advised by the police that he has a right to talk with a parent and to have a parent present during questioning, in addition to the right to an attorney.

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