In my last post, I discussed in a general fashion, the background, history, and legal impact of the groundbreaking US Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona which established certain legal rights for all those who are detained by law enforcement authorities. I wrote in that post that Miranda affords each of us two specific rights: 1)the right to remain silent and 2)the right to legal counsel, even if you can’t afford said counsel. That seems pretty straightforward. Even more so given the fact that if you are detained and an officer neglects to read you these rights your statements will most likely be thrown out in court as inadmissible based on Miranda. However, like most things in life, Miranda can have some gray areas. That’s the purpose of this post.
Are there circumstances under which my statements to police while detained and questioned can be dismissed by a judge even when my Miranda rights were read to me? The answer is: yes, there are circumstances when that may be the case. Let me give you an example. You are pulled over by a police officer and asked to exit your vehicle. You comply and the officer reads you the Miranda verbiage and does so completely and accurately. However, once he starts questioning you, he tells you that if you speak with him, things will go better for you or that your silence makes it appear as if you’re guilty. Such statements from the officer may compel a judge to dismiss your statements to the police because your Miranda rights were violated.
Another example of a gray area concerns your comprehension of Miranda. Once the officer has read you your rights, it is the officer’s responsibility and legal duty to make sure you understand those rights. If you give no indication, verbal or otherwise, the officer is not to interpret your lack of response as an affirmative answer. In other words, he can’t assume you understood what was just read to you.
Most of the issues that I have raised in this post have been argued in the courts after Miranda became law in 1966. These legal precedents help criminal lawyers like myself prepare your case for court and determine if your Miranda rights were violated.