Most people have heard of being “read their rights” during an arrest and may have seen rights being read to a suspect in a TV show or movie. Despite how commonly known these rights seem to be, there are many myths out there. Some people believe that if an arresting officer fails to read them their rights during an arrest that they can get out of being charged. This is simply not true but there are other consequences for prosecutors, with some exceptions.
If you or a loved one has any questions about whether your rights were violated during an arrest, contact an experienced Washington criminal defense lawyer for a consultation. Good criminal defense lawyers are advocates for their clients’ rights and will do the work required to ensure that your civil rights are not violated.
What are your Miranda Rights?
In a 1966 Supreme Court decision called Miranda v. Arizona, five justices ruled that an arrested individual is entitled to rights against self-discrimination and to an attorney under the Fifth (right to remain silent) and Sixth (right to a lawyer) Amendments of the United States Constitution. In practical terms, it means that arresting officers are required to read you your Miranda rights after you have been arrested and before they begin questioning or interrogating you if they want to use your answers as evidence at trial.
Here is a list of things an officer needs to tell you if they plan to interrogate you:
1. You have the right to remain silent.
2. If you do say anything, it can be used against you in a court of law.
3. You have the right to have a lawyer present during any questioning.
4. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you so desire.
When do police have to read Miranda rights?
Officers are required to read the Miranda rights whenever a person is in police custody if they want to ask questions of the suspect and use their answers as evidence at trial. Custody is defined by the inability to leave and not by the location of the suspect. When a suspect is handcuffed at the scene of the crime, for example, they are considered to be in custody and their Miranda rights should be read to them at that time.
When a suspect is not in police custody, officers are not required to provide Miranda rights and anything the person says can be used as evidence at trial. The public should be aware that police officers may avoid arresting people and go out of their way to tell them that they are free to go so they don’t have to inform the suspect of their Miranda rights. They do this hoping that the individual will make a statement incriminating themselves so they can arrest the individual. In legal terms, this is called a “custodial interrogation.”
What happens if you are not read your Miranda rights?
If a suspect is not read their Miranda rights, the prosecutors cannot use anything the suspect says as evidence against the suspect at trial, for most purposes. This is called the exclusionary rule and it is in place to discourage law enforcement from questioning a suspect without telling them about their rights. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as when public safety is at risk.
While un-Mirandized statements generally cannot be used as evidence, they can still be used for other purposes, such as to undermine the suspect’s credibility. If a statement given by a suspect who was not read their Miranda rights leads the police to another witness, that witness may be able to testify against the suspect at trial. The same goes for an un-Mirandized statement that leads police to physical evidence; while the statement itself may be inadmissible as evidence at trial, the physical item may be admissible.
Do you have to answer a police officer’s questions?
Whether or not you have been read your Miranda rights, you have a right to remain silent. You are generally not obligated to answer a police officer’s questions beyond telling them who you are; simply tell them that you are invoking your right to remain silent and would like to speak to an attorney. A defendant is better off waiting to answer questions until they have a criminal defense lawyer present and/or have received legal advice from a criminal defense lawyer because it is so easy to reveal information that can later be used against them.
Can I sue if I was not read your Miranda rights?
While the right to be read Miranda rights is not a constitutional right, it is used as a way to protect other constitutional rights (Fifth and Sixth Amendments). Because it is not a constitutional right in and of itself, individuals cannot sue the police in civil court for a violation of their civil rights.
Mount Vernon Criminal Defense Lawyer Since 2010
We understand that being charged with a crime is a stressful and upsetting situation. Having an aggressive advocate in your corner who can offer legal guidance and craft a strategic, practical approach to your case is so important. The experienced Mount Vernon criminal defense lawyer at Fields Law Office provides legal representation to criminal defense clients in Skagit, Island, and Whatcom Counties.
Sharon Fields is a highly skilled, results-driven criminal defense attorney with a tremendous drive to achieve justice, guided by her commitment and passion for your rights. Learn more about Fields Law.