Often, I encounter clients who believe that since they had contact with law enforcement, that the police were required to read them their “Miranda Rights.” These clients declare loud and clear that none of the officers ever read them their Miranda Rights. Unfortunately, law enforcement is typically not required to read you your Miranda Rights, except under a very narrow set of circumstances.
The answer to the question (When must your Miranda Rights be read?) is that your Miranda Rights have to be read to you only when you are both in police custody (not free to leave) and you are being interrogated as a criminal suspect. Outside of this narrow definition, the State and Federal Courts have given significant leeway to law enforcement to do a wide range of actions, from good police work to more questionable tactics, all of which are considered technically to be “legal”, with respect to Miranda.
What are your Miranda Rights?
If you have watched crime drama programs on television, then you are familiar with the refrain as the hero police officer arrests the suspect;
“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 these rights as have been described to you?”
Any phrase that refers to your right to not answer questions or a right to legal counsel is what is called your Miranda Warning. The Miranda Warning is what people mean generally when they say, “read me my rights.”
While people might know that law enforcement has to “read them their rights,” they might not know the impact of this right. After your Miranda Warning has been read, that is your cue as a suspect in the hot seat to not say another word. Asserted properly, your Miranda rights can end an interrogation in its tracks. On the other hand, if you keep talking to law enforcement after the Miranda Warning has been read, then your statements will end up being used by the District Attorney against you at court. District Attorneys like a full confession even better.
Your Best Defense: Remain Silent Anyway
In performing their jobs, law enforcement officers depend highly on their influence as officers of the law to give people the impression that you have to talk to them and answer their questions truthfully. What the police will not tell you is that you are never obligated to talk to a law enforcement officer or answer their questions. All you are obligated to do is to give them your identifying information. Nothing more, Nothing Less.
If you watch crime drama programs on television, you might think that physical evidence and forensic evidence win the day every time. Unfortunately, that is not how most criminal investigations turn out. Still, the bulk of most criminal investigations are witness statements, including statements made by the suspect while being questioned or interrogated. As a criminal defense lawyer, I see too many cases where my client simply talked too much. Needless to say, this makes my job as a defense lawyer all the more difficult.
Often, I have advised clients that your best defense is to remain silent, even if the Miranda Warning is not required. In other words, when in doubt, act as though your Miranda rights have been read to you already and be quiet!
Our committed legal team is determined to take immediate action to seek a positive case outcome. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges in Maine, I encourage you to contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. We will take the time to answer your questions and to put your mind at ease as we work with you to determine a defense strategy.
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If you would like to call us now at (207) 571-8555, we can begin to develop your case strategy.
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