The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution ensures that “no person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.” This right to remain silent is extended to the state through the Fourteenth Amendment. Almost everyone is familiar with Miranda rights in some form or another from popular criminal procedural television and movies. However, a lot more goes into these rights than we might think, and the rights include much more than just “the right to remain silent.” Let’s start at the beginning.
Where Do Miranda Rights Come From?
The right to remain silent has been in the United States Constitution long before it was dubbed one of the “Miranda rights.” It comes from Miranda v. Arizona, a United States Supreme Court case that established that the government may not use statements stemming from “custodial interrogation” unless it is shown that “procedural safeguards” existed and were effective enough to offset the coercive nature of police-dominated interrogations. This case essentially stated that the government must protect the defendant or accused against coercion or deception by making them aware of their rights, now called Miranda rights. These rights include:
The right to remain silent;
The right to refuse to answer questions;
A warning that anything the accused says may be used against them as evidence; and
The right to an attorney, either retained or appointed.
When someone is read their Miranda rights, they are “Mirandized,” or duly warned.
Custody is evaluated by courts as whether the person in the suspect’s position would have understood the situation as not being free to leave. This depends on the objective circumstances surrounding the interaction, not the subjective views of the officers or the suspects. Factors that courts use in making this determination include location, the number of officers present, the presence of weapons, the length of questions, the location of question, the age of the suspect, and what was said. Some examples of questioning that will not amount to a legal “custodial interrogation” include:
Traffic Stops – Since they are temporary and brief, the coercive nature is not present.
Terry Stop – Also known as a “Stop and Frisk,” this type of interaction is not considered “custodial” because of the brief nature of the detention.
What is an “Interrogation”?
An interrogation, under Miranda includes any words or actions on the part of the police that law enforcement should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect. This analysis focuses on the perception of the suspect. Obviously, interrogations also include express questioning, but we must also remember that the “functional equivalent” is also protected. Some examples of questioning that will not amount to an “interrogation” include:
Recording the suspect talking with a loved one – Courts have held that the mere possibility that the suspect could have made incriminating statements was not enough to amount to a legal interrogation.
Informant conversations – Courts have held that Miranda does not apply where the questioning is by an informant who the suspect does not know is working for the police. In Illinois v. Perkins, the Court held specifically that Miranda warnings do not need to be given before a cellmate questions the suspect on behalf of police. The reasoning was that Miranda warnings are signed to offset the coercive nature of police-dominated environments, and, if the suspect does not know that they are being interrogated by police, there is no coercive atmosphere to offset.
Public safety emergencies – Court have held that, when the interrogation is reasonably prompted by a concern for public safety, responses to the questions may be used in court, even though the suspect is in custody and Miranda warnings are not given. There must be a reasonable basis for believing that there is a public safety concern.
Can the Police Still Try to Question Me After I Invoke My Miranda Rights?
This question turns on whether the suspect’s right to cut off questioning was “scrupulously honored.” In Mosley, the Supreme Court found that a two-hour break with a change of location and subject was enough to say that the right to cut off questioning was scrupulously honored. Essentially, resolution of the issue turns entirely upon a single passage in Miranda: “If the individual indicates in any manner at any time that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease. Any statement taken after the person invokes his privilege cannot be other than the product of compulsion.” If an accused has expressed a desire to deal with police only through counsel, the accused may not be subjected to further interrogation by the authorities until counsel has been made available to them, or if the accused themselves initiates further communication, exchanges, or conversation with the police. When the accused invokes their right to counsel, that invocation will last the entire time the accused is in custody for interrogation purposes, plus fourteen more days after the accused returns back to normal life.
Can I Waive My Miranda Rights?
A suspect can waive their Miranda rights, but the waiver must be knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently made. In determining whether this occurred, courts look at the totality of the circumstances surrounding the waiver. Additionally, the government has the burden to prove that the waiver was valid by a preponderance of the evidence.
If I Waive My Miranda Rights, Does that Waive My Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel?
Waiver of the Fifth Amendment privileges associated with Miranda equal a complete waiver of the Sixth Amendment privilege to counsel as well, whether the suspect realized this or not.
What Happens if the Police Violate My Miranda Rights?
Generally, if the police violate a suspect’s Miranda rights, the evidence obtained from the custodial interrogation will be inadmissible at trial. However, there are some exceptions:
Use of Confession for Impeachment – A confession obtained in violation of a suspect’s Miranda rights, but otherwise given voluntarily can be used to impeach the suspect during trial, but not during the government’s case-in-chief. But, this confession cannot be used to impeach witnesses other than the suspect.
Warning After Questioning and Confession – If the police get a confession from the suspect without giving the suspect their Miranda warnings first, and they give the Miranda warning and get a confession again, the second confession will be admissible when the original unwarned questioning seemed unplanned and the failure to properly Mirandize the suspect seemed inadvertent.
Non-Testimonial Fruit of an Unwarned Confession – The Miranda rule only applies to testimonial evidence. It does not apply to the physical “fruit” derived from such evidence. Therefore, if police fail to Mirandize the suspect and the suspect gives information leading to physical evidence, that evidence will only be suppressed if the lack of a Miranda warning was purposeful.
Tallahassee Criminal Defense Lawyers
Constitutional rights are complicated, and law enforcement do not always want to adequately inform the public, and especially suspects, about what rights are afforded to them during questioning. It is important to have a Tallahassee criminal defense attorney on your side who can inform you of your rights and advise you of the best course of action. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm are well-versed in constitutional protections and will fight zealously to ensure that the rights of you or a loved one are not done away with. Call (850) 681-7777 or send an online message today to discuss your rights during an open and free consultation with our legal team. For even more information on the right to remain silent, please visit our other blog articles:
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.