Time and again, I hear this familiar refrain from clients: “The officer did not read me my Miranda rights so they have to dismiss my case, right?” Unfortunately, a failure to advise an individual of his Miranda rights will not cause an automatic dismissal of charges.
In Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court held that the admission of an elicited incriminating statement by a suspect not informed of certain rights violates the Fifth and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. What this means is that any statement made by an individual in response to police questioning once that person is in custody cannot be used against that individual unless that individual was advised of certain constitutional rights.
We are all familiar with those rights required to be given – known as Miranda rights – from television and movies: “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 an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?” While Miranda remains a landmark ruling, its effect is larger in media than reality.
In order for Miranda to apply, two factors must be satisfied. First, the individual must be in custody. Being in custody is not limited to being locked up in jail, but rather, is construed more broadly. Second, the individual’s statements must be in response to questioning by a police officer. Miranda warnings are not required, for example, where an individual blurts out information spontaneously.
It would be a violation of rights if a law enforcement officer does not give Miranda warnings to someone in custody, questions that individual, and that individual makes statements to the officer. The exclusive remedy for such a Miranda violation is that the court may exclude the individual’s statements at his trial.
It is important to remember that statements you make before being in custody as well as statements made that are not in response to police questioning are generally admissible in the absence of Miranda warnings.