Miranda v. Arizona was a seminal case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966. The Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination meant that law-enforcement must notify an in-custody suspect of certain constitutional rights before questioning the suspect.   

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The phrase “Miranda warnings” has become ubiquitous in American culture. While most people understand they have a right to remain silent, Miranda itself is often misunderstood. This article helps explain some of the basic ways Miranda works in the real world.

What are Miranda warnings?

Miranda warnings include the conveyance of the following: 1) the right to remain silent, 2) anything said by a suspect can be used against him or her in court, 3) a suspect has the right to the presence of an attorney during questioning, and 4) a suspect is entitled to the appointment of an attorney if he or she can’t afford one.   

When are Miranda warnings required?

Simply speaking, police are only required to provide Miranda warnings if 2 factors are present:

First, a suspect must be in custody for Miranda to apply. In custody does not necessarily mean in jail. Generally speaking, a person is in custody for the purposes of a Miranda analysis when a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would not have felt free to leave.

Second, police are only required to provide Miranda warnings to a suspect who is being interrogated. Many people believe that Miranda is required anytime a suspect is arrested. That’s not true. Officers are permitted to ask investigative questions to assess a situation without advising a potential suspect of Miranda.

The law has developed extensively on the definitions of “in custody” and “interrogations.” The explanation above is an oversimplification of the law. Each case is unique and it is important to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney to see how the law may apply to your case.

How will I know if my Miranda rights were violated?

The defendant (usually through the defendant’s attorney) must file a motion claiming that his or her rights were violated. The judge in the case may hold an evidentiary hearing to determine what the facts surrounding the interrogation were. The lawyers for each side will then argue the applicable law and the judge will decide whether a Miranda violation occurred. This process usually occurs prior to trial and outside the presence of a jury.

What happens if my Miranda rights were violated?

If a court determines that a Miranda violation occurred, the judge will order that any statements made by the defendant that were in violation of Miranda will be precluded from consideration at trial. Any other statements may still be admissible, however.

Importantly, a defendant can still be impeached with a prior statement even if it was made in violation of Miranda. This means that if a defendant chooses to testify in court, his or her testimony must be consistent with the prior precluded statement; otherwise, the prosecutor will be allowed to introduce the prior statement even if the defendant’s Miranda rights were violated.

Is there a way that my admission to police may be kept out of court even if I was Mirandized?

Possibly. Any statement that a defendant makes must have been made voluntarily to be used against that person in court. Although being aware of your Miranda rights implies that your statement was voluntary, it may be possible to argue that your statements were not voluntary for other reasons.

What can be done if a judge doesn’t find that my Miranda rights were violated?

In certain circumstances, a defendant has a right to appeal. Usually, a defendant cannot appeal unless the defendant has gone to trial and been convicted. Appeals are very complex and should be dealt with by an experienced appellate lawyer.

Do Miranda warnings apply in a non-criminal context?

No, Miranda protections only apply to defendants in criminal cases. Having said that, everyone possesses the right against self-incrimination at all times. This means that a person can always choose not to answer a question (even in a non-criminal context) if the question asks for criminally incriminating information. But, in some non-criminal investigation settings, a person’s silence can be used against them. If you have concerns about your rights in this regard, it is important to consult with an attorney before making any decisions that may affect your rights.

Experienced Flagstaff Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Argue Miranda Violations in Court for You

Miranda protections have been whittled down over the years by the courts. There are all kinds of exceptions and pitfalls in dealing with a potential Miranda violation. If you are facing criminal charges in Arizona, or if you are under investigation, and believe your Miranda rights are at stake, our experienced attorneys offer free consultations. Each case is different and it is important to contact an attorney today about your specific case.