What Are Miranda Rights And When Do They Really Come Into Play?
The “Miranda rights” are named after a criminal defendant in Arizona who confessed to some crimes and there was a serious question about whether the police coerced his confession. Because of the concern of police tactics in obtaining confessions, the US Supreme Court has said that police must inform someone of their “Miranda rights” or else the confession they obtain cannot be used against the accused in court. Miranda rights mean you have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney prior to and during questioning and even if you cannot afford an attorney, the state will provide one at no cost to you, so you always have the right to have an attorney even if you do not have the money. You also have the right to stop an interview at any point. Those are basically your Miranda rights.
Miranda rights actually exist all the time. From the very beginning of your contact with law enforcement you have Miranda rights; however, you do not have the right to have your Miranda rights explained to you until the police actually take you into custody. That is important because a lot of people say, “Well, yes, I admitted to the crime but the police never read me my Miranda rights.” Whether or not that is going to cause a problem for the state in convicting you, really depends on when you made the confession in relation to when you were taken into custody. Suppose, for example, you get pulled over and a police officer approaches your car. Do you have the right to have an attorney present as soon as he walks up to you? Yes, you do. However, the officer doesn’t have to tell you that you have the right to an attorney unless and until he actually takes you into custody. Any admissions you make prior to being placed in custody will be used against you, even if the officer didn’t read you your rights. If, on the other hand, the officer believes you are under the influence of alcohol, takes you into custody, and then asks you if you’ve been drinking without providing your Miranda warnings, then your attorney will likely be able to keep the statements from being used against you.
A lot of police officers get around Miranda rights by taking advantage of the fact that most people are not really aware that they have those rights from the beginning. They will try to get a confession from a crime before they take them into custody so they do not have to read them their Miranda rights. Most of the time, the questions will seem completely innocuous at first: “where are you coming from,” “where are you headed,” etc. Skilled officers know that if they can start a conversation with you and build a rapport, it is more likely that you will ultimately confess to them if you have committed any crime. Officers can genuinely be really nice people, of course, but it is safe to assume that if they have initiated unwanted contact with you, they are looking for evidence against you, no matter how nice they are. Legally, if you are the subject of an investigation, it is almost always best to request a lawyer right from the start or to tell the officer you are invoking your right to remain silent. You always have that right, even before the officer tells you that you do.
What Are Some Of The Most Common Ways That People Unintentionally Incriminate Themselves Or Hurt A Pending Case?
The most common way that people incriminate themselves is that they think they can talk themselves out of criminal charges. It is very, very difficult when someone gets questioned by a police officer to do the right thing. and the right thing is to say, “I want an attorney” or, “I’m exercising my right to remain silent.” Either of those things will legally stop the questioning from going any further. People who do not do that and who talk to the police, almost always hurt their case, rather than helping it.
Sometimes, people think, “Well, if I invoke my right to a lawyer and I refuse to speak to the police, it’s going to make me look guilty.” To a police officer, that does make you look guilty. Do it anyway. The problem is they are more likely to gather evidence against you if you do speak. People almost always tend to incriminate themselves when they talk, even if they are innocent! Most people are not really at the top of their game speaking to police. They get nervous; they fumble, maybe in an inarticulate way or an ambiguous way that can then be interpreted as a criminal admission. It is never ever a good idea to talk to the police. It is always the right idea to ask for a lawyer or to invoke your right to remain silent. While it may make you look guilty to that officer, he isn’t the one who is ultimately going to decide your guilt. That decision will be made by a jury, and the less evidence they hear against you, the better your potential outcome.
Another reason that people talk is because they think, “It’s ok to speak with police as long as I deny everything.” The truth is that even when you deny committing a crime, you might deny something that you probably should have admitted to. There are times you need to admit to certain facts in order to have a good defense. If you deny those things and then later on in preparing your defense, it would have been better for you had you admitted them, then you have hurt your case. Even if you say, “Well, I’m going to talk to the cops and I am just going to deny everything,” even that may hurt your case.
Another common mistake people make is believing that the officer who is trying to interview them is their friend or trying to help them. Officers will tell you, “I’m your friend. I’m here to help. This is going to be the best thing for you. Just tell me what happened. I promise you this is what’s best for you.” They do that because they are trained to do so. Officers are probably pretty nice people in general, but if they are questioning you and you aren’t the victim, there’s a good chance they are being nice because they are looking for evidence against you, not because they decided in the middle of their shift, they’d like to take a break and make friends. Officers are actually trained to lie to people they interview in order to obtain a confession. The law says they are perfectly within their authority to do so. Any time an officer is asking you questions and you are a suspect, it is better to just not say anything at all.
Another thing that people can do to screw up their case or to further incriminate themselves is they think, “I’m not going to hire or consult with an attorney until I actually get charged.” In case you get contacted by police or you hear that the police are looking for you, you should go to an attorney immediately so that you can get advice as to how to handle the investigations stage. When the attorney reaches out to the law enforcement official, they are able to intercept an interrogation that could have resulted in charges being brought. Sometimes, attorneys keep charges from even happening. Even if they do not, they often stop the police from gaining evidence against somebody that would be hurtful to their case later on.
Therefore, it is a good idea to have an attorney in your back pocket. Attorney Ryan Tait carries his business partner’s card in his wallet so that if at any time, if he were to be contacted by the police, which we hope would never happen, but if it does, he will have that card and he will say, “This is my lawyer. You can talk to him.” It is good to have a number with you just in case the need arises, because some officers will not provide you with numbers to any attorneys.
Read about Some of the Things to Know in Criminal Defense Cases or call the office of Tait & Hall for a FREE Initial Consultation at (480) 405-6767 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.