The Old Sacramento Bridge

The Scope of Miranda Protections

Miranda Rights

The United States Supreme Court in 1966 declared that people taken into police custody and subjected to interrogation must be advised of their constitutional rights. The reading of these rights became known as the Miranda warning after the name of the case, Miranda v. Arizona. Over the last 44 years, these rights have become a standard element of police procedure and a key protection of individuals against the power of government to detain and question.

Miranda v. Arizona

Miranda v. Arizona concerned Ernesto Miranda, who in 1963 was accused of kidnapping and raping a mentally handicapped 18-year old woman. After being taken into custody by the police and then questioned, Miranda admitted to committing the crime. At that time, there was no requirement that law enforcement had to provide suspects with any information about their constitutional rights. Understanding those rights was presumed to be the responsibility of the individual. Miranda's confession was deemed admissible at trial and he was found guilty.

The Supreme Court took up the case on appeal and ruled that people must be advised of their rights when they are arrested and interrogated. Though the precise form of this advisement can vary from state to state, it must have these elements: the suspect has the right to remain silent; any statements made by the suspect may be used against him/her in a court of law; the suspect has the right to an attorney; the court will appoint an attorney if the suspect cannot afford one.

Arrest and Interrogation

If someone is arrested and then subjected to an interrogation without being read his/her Miranda rights, the defense attorney should move to have any statements made by the defendant excluded from trial. 

In general, if a person has not been arrested, police may ask questions without first providing the Miranda warning if their intent is to gather facts about what occurred. If the suspect then provides incriminating information in the answers to the officers' questions, those statements may be used as evidence at trial.

The distinction between investigation and interrogation can be subtle, however. A 2012 California appellate court decision (People v. Bejasa) illustrates this. The defendant in this case was questioned, handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car, removed from the police car, had the handcuffs taken off, questioned again, and then arrested - all without receiving a Miranda warning. The appellate court ruled that the testimony and evidence obtained during this process should have been excluded from trial because a reasonable person would have thought that he was not free to leave - that he was in police custody and being subjected to an interrogation. Police should have advised the suspect of his Miranda rights.

Recent Limits to Miranda

Some recent Supreme Court decisions have limited the scope of the Miranda warning. For instance, in Berghuis v. Thompkins (2010), the Court ruled that when a suspect does not clearly state her desire to invoke her 5th Amendment right to remain silent, law enforcement officers may continue an interrogation. The burden, the Court said, is on the suspect to invoke the right to remain silent. And in Maryland v. Shatzer (2010), the Court determined that the right to remain silent, once it's invoked during a criminal investigation, does not extend indefinitely when a suspect has been released from custody. The Court's 9-0 ruling stated that after 14 days police may attempt to question the suspect again. That period of time was viewed as sufficient for the suspect to contact an attorney and determine how to proceed if once again contacted by the police.

Free and Confidential Consultation

The law regarding Miranda warnings is complex and ever-changing. If you've been arrested or interrogated by the police, contact me at (916) 422-1200 for a free and confidential consultation.

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