Police officers typically have to provide Miranda warnings to suspects in custody and whom they will interrogate. If the police don’t give Miranda warnings, the resulting statements are off-limits in a trial. However, there are situations where officers have a suspect in custody and question them without providing the warning, and the resulting answers are still admissible in court.
The Miranda Rule is important in criminal procedure. Anytime someone is arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, they must be read their Miranda rights. These have been popularized in movies and television shows. Miranda rights include:
- The right to remain silent
- The right to request that an attorney be present during police questioning
- Be provided with an attorney if they can’t afford one
These rights are to be read by the arresting officer before the suspect is subjected to criminal interrogation and questioning. In addition, the suspect must be informed of the consequences of waiving their rights (i.e., “anything you say can be held against you in a court of law”).
What Are Some Exceptions to the Miranda Rule?
- The suspect is being asked questions that are standard booking procedures
- The situation involves an emergency hostage situation or negotiation
- The person is unaware that they are speaking with a police officer
- The police questions are necessary for preserving public safety
- The person voluntarily agreed to meet and speak with the police, and the conversation is being taped in secret
In such situations, the person’s Miranda rights do not exist or are diminished. For example, the police can question a person holding someone hostage, even if they requested an attorney and their attorney has not yet shown up.
What Are Routine Booking Questions?
The Miranda rules only apply to custodial interrogation, not before. Until an interrogation has begun, police aren’t required to provide a Miranda warning. But what constitutes an interrogation?
Typically, a request for identifying information is not considered an interrogation. Questions about your name, date of birth, and address are allowed without Miranda warnings.
However, once a police officer begins asking questions that may implicate involvement in a crime, an interrogation has begun. A Miranda warning then must come before any statement you make could be suppressed.
What is a Jailhouse Informant?
Miranda rules also only apply to government or state agents. Police officers and prosecutors are state agents. The jailhouse informant rule doesn’t apply to private citizens. However, the situation is different for undercover agents and paid informants.
The Supreme Court has held that confessions obtained from undercover agents or jailhouse informants, even if the government pays them, don’t violate Miranda rules. The reasoning is because there is no coercion and no police-dominated atmosphere since the suspect doesn’t know the police are questioning them.
What is the Public Safety/Emergency Exception?
Statements made during a custodial interrogation without Miranda warnings can be used against a defendant if the questioning was necessary to secure officers’ safety or the safety of the public.
In situations where there is an imminent danger to the public, like suspected terrorist attacks or where police are trying to determine the whereabouts of a bomb, officers are given leeway to continue the interrogation. Even if a person has invoked their Miranda rights, their responses may still be admissible in court during these situations.
Courts disagree on what constitutes a threat to public safety that triggers the public safety exception. Some courts say the exception applies broadly to dangerous situations, even if the officer doesn’t know about any actual threat.
The public safety exception most often applies during cases involving weapons or dangerous items. The exception may also apply where officers attempt to locate an armed accomplice or an injured person. The public safety exception only applies if the officer’s questions focus on the issue causing the public safety concern. An officer cannot use this exception to elicit incriminating responses.
For example, say dispatch calls an officer to a traffic accident, and the officer finds a man standing over a woman’s body. The woman is lying on the ground with a pool of blood around her head. The officer asks what happened, and the man says he accidentally shot the woman while she was driving. The officer then handcuffs the man and makes him lie down. The officer doesn’t give any Miranda warnings but asks where the gun is. The man confesses that the gun is in a nearby van. Two more officers arrive and ask about the gun. The suspect’s responses to the questions about the guns fall within the public safety exception. Still, an officer asking the suspect, “What happened?” would violate Miranda rules because the suspect is now in custody.
Suppose another officer makes a traffic stop of a known meth dealer. The officer arrests the dealer and reads him his Miranda rights. The officer, who knows the suspect to be a meth distributor and knows the volatility of meth-lab materials, needs to move the suspect’s car. THe officer asks if there is any meth or explosive materials in the car. The suspect tells the officer there isn’t meth in the car but that a bag in the car contains a can of ether. The public safety exception applies here because the officer made a reasonable inquiry about a safety hazard.
Impeaching a Witness
Suppose a defendant gives testimony during a trial that conflicts with statements made to police. In that case, the prosecutor can offer a statement elicited in violation of Miranda rules to impeach the defendant’s credibility. Rules in many states allow prosecutors to offer statements obtained in violation of Miranda against defendants in sentencing hearings.
For example, assume that an illegally obtained statement included a defendant admitting to the police that he was armed with a weapon while committing a crime. The defendant’s confession may not be admissible at trial to prove the defendant’s guilt, but the prosecutor may offer the statement into evidence during sentencing to obtain a harsher sentence.
What If My Miranda Rights Have Been Violated?
Common ways that the Miranda rights can be violated include:
- A failure to read the rights when required
- Conduct by police that intentionally disregards the Miranda rights
- Reading the rights in a way that is incorrect
Miranda rights have to do with interrogation rights. If Miranda rights have been violated, it usually means that the interrogation is botched, and the evidence obtained from that interrogation can’t be entered into the trial record.
Should I Hire a Lawyer to Help with Miranda Rule Issues?
Miranda rights are basic protections afforded to all criminal suspects and need to be addressed properly in any investigation. It’s in your interest to hire a criminal lawyer if you or a loved one needs criminal representation. An attorney can provide legal advice and help ensure that your rights are not violated. Proper representation is essential during any criminal trial.
Consider using LegalMatch to find an experienced criminal lawyer in your area today. There is no fee to schedule a consultation, and our services remain entirely confidential.