Our office receives calls every day from people who have been arrested and were not read their rights. The "rights" we are referring to are your "Miranda rights." You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney.
Police are not required to tell you what you are being charged with or your Miranda rights at the moment of arrest. However, if you or a loved one were arrested or interrogated without being read your Miranda rights, the police may have violated your legal rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Whether the police violated your legal rights depends on the details of your case. If your rights were violated, it could provide a legal basis for getting your case thrown out or for suppressing evidence at trial. A civil rights or criminal defense attorney can help determine whether your rights were violated and how it might affect your criminal case.
If your arrest took place in Philadelphia or the surrounding areas, contact top Philadelphia criminal defense law firm Wimmer Criminal Defense Law for help at (215) 712-1212.
The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution give you several fundamental legal rights. The 5th Amendment provides, for the purposes of Miranda, that a person cannot be compelled to be a witness in their own criminal case and has a right to an attorney during pre-indictment “custodial interrogation.” The 6th Amendment also provides the right to counsel, but during all critical stages of a criminal prosecution, beginning at least at the time of the defendant’s arraignment. As it pertains to being placed under arrest, the two key points are:
1. You have the right to remain silent, and
2. You have the right to legal counsel, even if you cannot afford it.
An important caveat is that if you do choose to speak to officers or detectives and say anything to incriminate yourself, they can use your statement as evidence in a criminal trial.
The term “Miranda rights” or “Miranda warning” comes from a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona. This case concerned the legal rights of suspects who are being interrogated while in police custody. Specifically, the court considered the conditions under which statements obtained from a defendant during an interrogation were admissible at trial. The court also considered whether law enforcement officers must take specific action to advise someone suspected of a crime of their Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves during custodial interrogation. Ultimately, the court ruled that before interrogating a suspect in custody, an officer or detective must advise that individual of both their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and their Sixth Amendment right to have a lawyer.
The Miranda warning requirement prevents the police from forcing you to incriminate yourself during a custodial interrogation. Although most of us have seen enough criminal procedure television shows to recite the Miranda rights by heart, many people are truly not aware of these critical Constitutional rights.
Although it might sound like these rights exist strictly for your protection, the Miranda warning cuts in both directions. By reading your rights before interrogating you, police ensure that any self-incriminating statements you do make will stand up in court.
When someone being placed under arrest is not read their Miranda rights, it does not automatically mean the police violated the suspect’s Constitutional rights. If the police interrogate a suspect in their custody, however, the suspect’s statements will be admissible in court only if the police delivered the Miranda warning.
Even if your statements are excluded, however, that does not necessarily mean that your case will be dismissed. What a criminal defense lawyer can argue is that your statement should be declared inadmissible as evidence in your trial. This is true even if you gave the police a full, signed confession that you committed a crime. If your statements were the only evidence supporting your charge, their exclusion could lead to a dismissal of your charges.
A Miranda warning is required before custodial interrogation. This means that police are required to give you a Miranda warning only if they take you into custody. The definition of custody, for the purposes of Miranda, depends on whether the 5th or 6th Amendment applies. Under the 5th Amendment, whether a person is in custody at the time of questioning depends on whether the environment is deemed coercive enough that a reasonable person would not feel free to exercise her rights. The term interrogation, under the 5th Amendment, refers not only to express questioning by police, but also to any words or actions that police officers should know are reasonably likely to provoke an incriminating response. These rules apply whether you are in a police car, on the side of the road, at a crime scene, or at the police station. It is important to understand that if the police do not take you into custody, any statements you make to them may be admissible in court even without a Miranda warning.
For example, the police could pull you over for drunk driving. The officer might ask you questions about where you’ve been and whether you have been drinking. If you tell the officer you were at a bar and had three beers and two cocktails, you may have provided all the evidence necessary to convict you on charges for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), even though the officer never advised you of your rights. Because the officer did not place you under arrest in this example, they had no legal obligation to read the Miranda warning before asking you questions.
Most criminal defense attorneys recommend that you never talk to police officers or detectives or answer any questions until you have a lawyer present. This applies to any situation and any location, even if you are not under arrest.
If the police do arrest you, any questions that follow count as custodial interrogation and thus require advising you of your rights first. After an arrest, you should always insist that you be allowed to contact your attorney before answering any questions. While you are waiting for your attorney to arrive, don’t say anything else. If you voluntarily speak with officers after invoking your right to an attorney, you may open the door to further questioning and your statements may be admissible in court.
Even if you believe you could never be arrested or face criminal interrogation, having a criminal defense attorney’s contact information both in your phone and in your wallet or purse is good insurance.
No matter what the circumstances of your arrest, consider talking to an experienced criminal defense lawyer about your options. If you are convicted of a crime, you could face time behind bars as well as expensive fines and fees. You will also have a criminal record, which can negatively affect your life in a variety of ways.
If an attorney can demonstrate that the police violated your legal rights, it could result in a dismissal of your case or a reduction in charges. Even if the police did read your rights before interrogating you, an attorney has the best chance of identifying other factors and evidence that can be used to build a persuasive defense case.
The police and prosecutors will fight hard to get a confession and potentially use your statements to convince you to plead guilty. Before you make any statements or discuss any plea deal, talk to a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney.
If you have been arrested, contact an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer at Wimmer Criminal Defense Law. We provide highly personalized legal services, putting our knowledge, experience, and resources to work for you. We will fight aggressively to help get the best possible outcome in your case.
Call 215-712-1212 or contact us now for help or to discuss a situation in which the police failed to read you your rights.