January 12, 2013

MIRANDA, THE POLICE INTERROGATION AND YOU

     I hear it time and time again; the police did not tell me my rights! The police did not advise me of my Miranda rights! In this edition of Legal Ease I will explain when you are entitled to the Miranda warnings and why you should never face a police interrogation alone.

Miranda v. Arizona was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court. The case was decided in 1966 and forever changed the landscape of police interrogation. In Miranda v. Arizona the highest Court in the land held that statements made in response to interrogation by a defendant in police custody will be admissible against them at trial only if the prosecution can show that the defendant was informed of the right to consult with an attorney before and during questioning and of the right against self-incrimination prior to questioning by the police. Law enforcement also has to show that the defendant not only understood those rights but freely and voluntarily waived them.

Everyone who has ever watched an episode of Law and Order is aware of the Miranda warnings. However, most people do not understand when the warnings actually apply. Unlike what you see on television, merely being arrested does not entitle you to the Miranda warnings. Arrest is step one in the process because if the police arrest you and take you to jail you are not entitled to the Miranda warnings. In order for the police to be required to read the Miranda rights they must want to question you. Therefore step two in the process is interrogation. Miranda only applies when there is arrest and interrogation; both have to be present.

When you are faced with a situation where you are subject to an interrogation, you should never go at it alone. Police officers are trained in the art of interrogation. They are trained to respond to your verbal and emotional cues and to exploit them for their gain. You will be outgunned and outmaneuvered. In my experience I find there are two types of people, those that believe they can outsmart the police and those that believe that if they speak to the police they will help them in some way. Both of these people are wrong. The police officer is investigating a crime. His only concern is to solve the crime. His goal is not to exonerate you nor is it to look out for your interest. If you are faced with an interrogation, you should do two things, request an attorney and remain silent. Do not waive your rights without speaking to an attorney. The attorney will advise you on the best way to proceed and accompany you to the interrogation to ensure that your interests are protected. If you are already in custody and you do not have an attorney then you should exercise your right to remain silent and ask for an attorney. The request cannot be in the form of a question and it cannot be equivocal otherwise the courts will deem your confession admissible. You have to be clear and direct in your desire to remain silent and forthright in your request for an attorney. Neither the threat of jail nor the fear of incarceration should ever play a role in whether you speak to the police because if you speak to the police your words will be the strongest evidence against you. I am not saying you should never speak to the police. I am saying that you should seek out guidance before doing so.

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