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Miranda Rights & Confessions

“What if police don’t read me my Miranda rights?”

Why are Miranda rights important?  What are they?  And how can your criminal defense attorney help you if police violated your Miranda rights?  If police violate your Miranda rights, then a judge can suppress the statements you made after the violation.  But what does that mean, exactly?  Read on.

The Miranda case

The United States Supreme Court took an important step towards reducing wrongful convictions of innocent people in the 1966 case, Miranda v. Arizona.  The case requires police to provide a basic rights warning before asking questions of a suspect in custody.

Today, if police fail to give a required Miranda warning, a judge may suppress any later statements.

Hint: you have the Right to remain silent

You have the right to remain silent. Ok?

Let’s take a look at some of the basics of Miranda violation by police.

What triggers your Miranda rights to a police warning?

  1. Police or other government actor (state action).
  2. Are questioning.
  3. A person in custody.

If all three conditions exist, police must give a Miranda warning to the person in custody.  And what if they don’t?

The Remedy

Without a remedy, there is no “right.”  If the police don’t give a required Miranda rights warning, what’s the legal remedy?  Normally the remedy is what lawyers call the exclusionary rule.  The judge suppresses any confessions, admissions or other statements made as the result of a Miranda violation by police.

The prosecuting attorney cannot use any statement the court suppresses for this reason, as part of the government’s case-in-chief.  And the prosecutor can’t use it to support probable cause for the charge or Complaint.

So far, so good?  Sure.  But if the defendant exercises her “right” to testify, then the prosecuting attorney can still use the “suppressed” statement to impeach the defendant’s testimony.  The exclusionary rule is really only partial suppression.

Understanding the Why

Why do the Courts allow the prosecutor to benefit from evidence resulting from a Miranda rights violation?  To understand their reasoning, look at the primary public policy behind the Supreme Court’s Miranda decision: to deter police misconduct.

The courts’ view is that the exclusionary rule remedy is enough to deter police misconduct; that preventing government use of illegally obtained statements to support probable cause and its prima facie case, is enough.

Compare this to the stronger, older Common Law remedy that we still have today for involuntary statements.  Once a judge Orders a defendant’s involuntary statement suppressed, the prosecuting attorney cannot use it for any purpose.  The prosecutor can’t even use it to impeach the Defendant exercising her right to testify.

The legal remedy for an involuntary statement is complete suppressionWhy?  The public policy for suppressing involuntary statements is not to deter police misconduct.  Rather, the purpose is to increase reliability of verdicts by keeping out unreliable evidence.  Involuntary statements are too unreliable.

Good legal hygiene

Miranda rights warning and waiver questions

Miranda rights warning and waiver questions

If questioned by police, what should you do?

When police could view a person as a possible suspect in a criminal investigation, that person should assert her right to silence, as well as her right to have an attorney present during questioning.  (Notice that two phrases in the Miranda rights warning refer to these to two Constitutional rights.)

Most people lack experience with police.  As a result, they fail to properly interpret what is happening until it’s over and too late.

Therefore, err on the side of caution.   And refuse to answer police questions if there is any chance they could see you as a person of interest.

After all, you can always make a statement later, at any point in the future after consulting your lawyer.  But, once words come out of your mouth, you can never take them back.

Not saying anything in the first place is better than your lawyer trying to suppress your statement later.  Even if successful, the suppression may be partial as in the case of the exclusionary rule.

Waiver of Miranda rights

Once a person invokes their Miranda rights, police may try to get that person to “waive their Miranda rights.”

Here police sometimes play with the technicalities of Miranda case.  For example, police may say things in front of the suspect to other police, to bait the suspect.  Or, police pretend resignation after saying this “was your last chance to tell your side of the story.”  Whatever the bait, don’t take it.

If police cross the line and use coercive tactics to get a waiver of invoked Miranda rights, your defense lawyer may be able to get a judge to suppress those statements.  Again, prevention is much better than any cure.

Your Criminal Defense Attorney

Did police violate your Miranda rights?  Perhaps they did not read a Miranda rights warning after questioning you in custody.  Or, perhaps police got you to waive your rights in a way that was not knowing, intelligent or voluntary?

Apart from Miranda law, perhaps your confession or statement was involuntary?

If so, your criminal defense attorney should look into the facts, and prepare motion to suppress the confession or statement to police.  A judge will hear that motion at a Contested Omnibus Hearing.

If the judge agrees, the illegal statements will be partially or fully suppressed.  That will help your criminal defense attorney either win your trial, or negotiate a deal more to your liking.

Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney Thomas C. Gallagher‘s three decades experience in confessions law can benefit you.

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He teaches law classes on the subject to police officers, other lawyers and judges.  The legal community views him as an expert on the topic.

What about you?  Can Attorney Thomas Gallagher help you with your case?

Have a question about a Minnesota criminal case?  Give Minneapolis Criminal Lawyer Thomas Gallagher a call at, 612 333-1500