What’s a Miranda Warning, Anyways?
Most citizens feel obligated to respond when called upon by police to answer questions.
Even good citizens who are apprehended or stopped by the police are a bit intimidated by the ‘color of authority’: the uniform, the badge, and the gun.
The Miranda warning is a cautionary notice that is required to be given by police to suspects in custody (or in a custodial situation) before they are interrogated. The warning puts the suspect on notice that whatever he or she says is going to be considered voluntary from that point on if he chooses to continue talking to police.
Intended to prevent coerced confessions and admissions
The use of the Miranda warning reduces the incentive officers potentially have to “play dirty” (not that all do). History is replete with accounts demonstrating the danger to liberty that coerced confessions bring. Use of the warning puts the responsibility of choosing one’s words carefully upon the speaker rather than the hearer. Some detectives and interrogators are skilled at reading body language, trapping suspects in custody into giving what appeared to be harmless information that can be later intentionally or unintentionally misunderstood by police. This is why it is important to have a Bar Certified Criminal Trial Expert like Geoff Golub at your side during any questioning.
In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court of the United States held that an elicited incriminating statement by a suspect will not constitute admissible evidence unless the suspect was informed of the right to decline to make self-incriminatory statements and the right to legal counsel (hence the so-called “Miranda rights”), and makes a knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver of those rights. The Miranda warning is not a condition of detention, but rather a safeguard against self-incrimination; as a result, if law enforcement officials decline to offer a Miranda warning to an individual in their custody, they may still interrogate that person and act upon the knowledge gained, but may not use that person’s statements to incriminate him or her in a criminal trial.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision (Berghuis v. Thompkins) guarantees suspects the 5th Amendment right to remain silent, and the 6th Amendment right to the assistance of counsel; however, if a suspect waives these rights and interrogation begins, the right to halt further questioning by the police (and to not have your answers used against you) must be exercised explicitly by invoking one’s 5th and/or 6th Amendment rights.
Remember, if you are called upon to answer questions “down at the station”, contact me forthwith so I can help to protect your rights and gather information during the interrogation for the battle to come.