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Miranda and me

Miranda Rights | 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 speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.

This warning for people suspected of committing a crime was made famous by the landmark ruling in Miranda v. Arizona.  It can be recognized by anyone who has ever watched any television program or movie with police officers.

Like most things on T.V you cannot always believe what you see.  I have had numerous clients come into the office and tell me that the officer did not read them a Miranda warning before arresting them and the charges should be dismissed.  A Miranda warning is needed for custodial interrogations or “questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.”  Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 1612 (1966).

The Court, in determining if a Miranda violation occurred, will look to see if the two elements for the Miranda warning requirement apply. The suspect must be in custody and he must be undergoing interrogation.  If this is the case, generally a warning must be read.

In recent cases the U.S. Supreme Court has held that if you would like to exercise your rights listed in Miranda you need to do so explicitly.  In simple terms, inform law enforcement you are going to exercise your right to remain silent and would like to speak with an attorney.  As a rule of thumb, if law enforcement is reading you your Miranda warning, you are in trouble and anything you say will only make the situation worse.  Silence is golden.

Whatever happened to Ernesto Miranda?  Miranda was accused of kidnapping and raping a young woman in Arizona and was arrested for the crime. During questioning Miranda confessed to the crime, but the police had failed to tell him he had the right to silence and that he could have an attorney present during the questioning. Miranda’s confession was ruled inadmissible; however, the court convicted him based on other evidence.

Ernesto Miranda was released from prison after he served his sentence. Not long after his release he was stabbed and killed during a bar fight. And now you know the rest of the story.