Years of watching television shows and movies with dramatic arrest scenes have led people to believe that police officers need to “read them their rights” during an arrest. That’s a misconception, and it’s unlikely that a judge will throw out a case simply because of that. Even if the police didn’t read you your rights, there are only a limited number of situations where that will come into play.
We have many rights afforded to us by the Constitution, but the rights that people expect from the police are their Miranda Rights. These include your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. The right to remain silent prevents the police from forcing you to talk and incriminate yourself. The right to an attorney means that you’re entitled to an attorney, whether or not you’re able to afford one.
The only time that an officer needs to read you your Miranda rights are when you’re in police custody and going to be interrogated. Police custody means that you’ve actually been arrested, so if an officer pulls you over or approaches you on the street and asks you something, you’re not in custody. In an interrogation, the police question you to attempt to get you to make an incriminating statement.
The only time that a failure to read you your Miranda Rights will be a factor in your case is if you confessed to something, and the prosecution is using that against you. In that situation, your defense attorney can use the fact that you weren’t read your rights to file a motion to suppress, which means that the confession can’t be used against you. If your confession was a significant part of the prosecution’s case, then it could lead to the charges being dropped for insufficient evidence.
Here are a few examples to illustrate the difference in when police need to read you your Miranda Rights and when they don’t:
An officer pulls you over and arrests you for driving under the influence. Your blood alcohol content (BAC) is well over the legal limit. The officer doesn’t need to read you your Miranda Rights, because they’re not interrogating you. Even if they did interrogate you without reading you your rights and you confessed, the prosecution would still be able to move forward with the case because they have sufficient evidence in the form of your breathalyzer results or blood test. The confession isn’t a necessary part of their case.
An officer pulls you over because your car matches the description of one that was used in a robbery. You make an incriminating statement to the officer. Since you weren’t in custody yet, this statement can be used against you even though the officer hadn’t read you your rights yet.
The police arrest you for a crime and interrogate you, but forget to read you your rights. During the interrogation, you confess. Your defense attorney could most likely have this confession suppressed so it can’t be used against you, because of the failure to read you your rights before obtaining it.
As you can see, for most cases, you won’t be able to get off simply because no one read you your Miranda Rights.
One important thing to remember about your Miranda Rights is that you have them for a reason. Despite being read their rights, many people still choose to try talking their way out of a bad situation and only end up making it worse. When the police are interrogating you, they’re not trying to help you. They’re trying to elicit incriminating evidence that the prosecution will be able to use against you. If the police are interrogating you, the only thing you should tell them is that you will be remaining silent, and you want to speak to a lawyer.
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