Does The Right To Remain Silent Apply To Non-Incriminating Questions What Are Miranda Rights and When Must They Be Given?

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What Are Miranda Rights and When Must They Be Given?

We all know our Miranda Rights from TV cop dramas or from personal experience.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford one… etc. There is a popular belief out there that before the police can use anything you say against you, you have to read these rights to you.

Wrong. In fact, many statements made by suspects can be used against them – even if they haven’t received your Miranda Rights! To understand why, you need to know why the police gave Miranda Rights in the first place.

Why Do Police Give Miranda Rights?

Before anything you say can be used against you, the court must find that you made the statements voluntarily. This is a fundamental protection, based on the 5th Amendment, that protects your right against self-incrimination.

Courts do not want the police to obtain statements by beating, threatening, or in other ways coercing suspects. In an ideal world, all statements obtained by the police would be freely given to an informed suspect who is aware of his rights to remain silent. With that goal in mind, we turn to the case of Miranda v. Arizona

In the landmark case of the Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held that coercion can be mental as well as physical. In fact, the Court described in detail, the various acts of police interrogation and likened it to a form of psychological coercion. One part of the opinion said that the interrogation “undermines individual freedom and betrays the vulnerability of individuals.”

In other words, police interrogations are inherently coercive, and statements obtained during interrogations are involuntary.

To resolve this fact, and to be closer to the ideal mentioned above, the Court requires the police to advise the accused of their rights to remain silent and a lawyer. In theory, this advice levels the playing field and eliminates the inherently coercive nature of custodial interrogation.

When Should Miranda Rights Be Given?

Since the purpose of the Miranda Rights is to eliminate the inherently coercive nature of custodial interrogation, they are only granted during custodial interrogation. This means that statements obtained while out of custody, or while in custody but not interrogated can be used against the suspect.

Why? Because there is not the same level of coercion when a suspect is not in custody. It also does not exist now if the suspect is not subjected to interrogation. Since there is no pressure, there is no need to eliminate it.

What is custodial interrogation?

Custodial interrogation has two parts. The first is that the suspect is in custody. The court looks at the totality of the circumstances when determining whether a person is in custody or not, but this is generally equated to full arrest (ie handcuffs). The second requirement is to interrogate the suspect. Interrogation is essentially any act or statement that law enforcement knows or should know is likely to bar an incriminating response. This means that voluntary statements made by a suspect independent of any question can be admitted. Also, statements made in response to questions that do not likely prohibit an incriminating answer (but do) can be used against the suspect.

Conclusion

Many cases are built every day against the accused based on the things they say. They often make these statements during custodial interrogation after being informed of their right to remain silent. The best way to avoid having statements used against you in a criminal case is to exercise your Miranda Rights and silent!

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