Miranda rights, also known as the Miranda warnings, are a set of legal rights that must be read to a suspect who is both under arrest and being interrogated by a law enforcement officer in the United States. The Miranda warning is named after the U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), in which the Court ruled that suspects must be informed of their rights prior to any police questioning.
The Case of Miranda v. Arizona
In Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court established the requirement for law enforcement officials to inform criminal suspects of their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and Sixth Amendment right to an attorney prior to any police questioning.
The case involved Ernesto Miranda, who was arrested by the police and interrogated without being informed of his rights. During the interrogation, Miranda confessed to the crimes he was accused of. Miranda was later convicted based on his confession, and he appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court held that Miranda’s confession was inadmissible as evidence because he had not been informed of his rights. The Court established that suspects must be informed of their rights before any police questioning occurs, and that the failure to do so would result in the exclusion of any statements made during the interrogation.
The Court reasoned that the police interrogation process created an inherently coercive environment that could easily lead suspects in custody to confess to crimes, even if they were innocent. To protect suspects’ Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and Sixth Amendment right to an attorney, the Court established that law enforcement officials must inform suspects in custody of their constitutional rights before any police questioning occurs.
The Content of the Miranda Warning
The content of the Miranda warning typically consists of the following:
- You have the right the remain silent
- Anything that you say can and will be used against you in a court of law
- You have the right to an attorney
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you
When Must the Miranda Warning be Given?
The following two things must occur simultaneously to trigger the required issuance of the Miranda warnings: (1) The suspect must be in police custody and (2) the suspect must be the subject of police interrogation.
What is Police Custody?
A suspect must be in police custody in order for Miranda to apply. The test for custody is whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would feel that they were not free to leave and walk away from the police encounter. If a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would not feel free to leave, then they are considered to be in police custody.
In other words, custody exists when a suspect is deprived of his or her freedom in a significant way, such as being placed under arrest, and would not feel free to terminate the encounter with the police and leave. The U.S. Supreme Court has noted that the determination of whether a suspect is in custody for Miranda purposes is based on the totality of the circumstances. The Court provided the following factors to consider, among others not listed, in a totality of the circumstances analysis:
- Location of the Suspect
- Movement of the Suspect by the Police
- Length of Time the Suspect is Held
- Manner and Tone of the Police Officer’s Voice
- Display or Use of a Weapon by the Police Officer
It is important to note that even if a suspect is not formally under arrest, they may still be considered in custody for the purposes of Miranda warnings if a reasonable person in their position would not feel free to leave.
What is Police Interrogation?
A suspect in police custody must be interrogated in order for Miranda to apply. The test for interrogation is whether law enforcement officials have engaged in conduct that is likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect. This includes not only direct questioning, but also any words or actions on the part of the police that are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect. The U.S. Supreme Court has noted that the determination of whether an interrogation has taken place is based on the objective viewpoint of a reasonable person in the suspect’s position, and not on the intent of the police.
When Does Miranda Not Apply?
While the rule announced in Miranda v. Arizona requires the police to inform suspects of their rights before any custodial interrogation, there are several exceptions to the rule. Those exceptions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Public Safety: In situations where there is an imminent threat to public safety, the police may ask questions without first providing Miranda warnings. The purpose of this exception is to allow law enforcement officials to quickly obtain information that is necessary to protect the public from harm.
- Routine Booking Questions: Routine booking questions, such as a suspect’s name, address, and date of birth, do not require Miranda warnings. These questions are considered administrative in nature and are not likely to elicit an incriminating response.
- Spontaneous Statements: Statements made by a suspect that are not in response to police questioning and are voluntarily made without any coercion or pressure from law enforcement officials are not subject to Miranda requirements.
- Waiver of Miranda Rights: If a suspect voluntarily and intelligently waives his or her Miranda rights, the police may question the suspect without providing Miranda warnings. However, the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.
Criminal Defense Attorney in Towson, MD
Our criminal defense law firm in Towson, MD has experience with helping people accused of crimes whose Miranda rights were violated. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation with an award-winning criminal defense attorney in Baltimore County, MD if you or a loved one have been accused of a crime.