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Miranda and You - Don't Silence Your Rights

What Are Miranda Rights and How Does One Get Them?

The Miranda rights provide that, before a person is subjected to custodial interrogation, said must be advised that he has specific rights: the right to remain silent, the right to the advice of counsel and that, unless he waives these rights, any statements he makes during a custodial interrogation (without the advice of counsel) are inadmissible against him.

Translation: If you are arrested and questioned without being told of these rights (i.e. read your Miranda rights), everything that you say may not be used against you during a trial.

Derived from the due process rights of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, individuals' Miranda rights have been recognized and upheld in California Courts for over the last 40 years. These rules are designed to protect against compulsory self-incrimination.

Any person with a television set has seen at least one program where a police officer is reciting the ominous admonishment in some form or another: "You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. Anything you say can and will be used against you." The recitation has become common place within the fantasy frames of television, as well as in the harsh reality of the world we live in today. However, this was not always the case.


In 1966, a case was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. In Miranda v. Arizona, the nine member court held, after an intellective and thorough review of the facts, "The Fifth Amendment privilege is so fundamental to our system of constitutional rule and the expedient of giving an adequate warning as to the availability of the privilege so simple, we will not pause to inquire in individual cases whether the defendant was aware of his rights without a warning being given."

The warning is an absolute prerequisite to interrogation. A person in custody and subjected to interrogation has a right to be informed of his Miranda rights. He must be informed in clear and unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain silent.

As citizens, we all hold these rights (as governed by the Constitution) and do not have to do anything special or extra to receive them. The law is on our side. DO NOT be hesitant to exercise your Miranda rights, if you need to.

IMAGINE THE FOLLOWING HYPOTHETICALS:

Story 1: Adam is driving down the road, feeling pretty good about himself and life in general. Unfortunately, this feeling is short lived, as Adam notices the infamous flash of red and blue lights in his rearview mirror. He is eventually stopped for allegedly speeding and is asked the usual preliminary questions regarding license and registration. He is then asked to exit the vehicle and step to the side. Adam is asked additional questions regarding permission to search the vehicle and his whereabouts the night before. Adam gives consent and states that he was with his girlfriend the night before. A 9 mm (handgun) is recovered from the interior of the vehicle. Adam is immediately placed under arrest. He is asked more questions regarding his whereabouts and a robbery. Adam admits being involved in the robbery.

Story 2: Bob is cruising down the boulevard when he suddenly makes eye contact with an intriguingly attractive young woman. He immediately pulls over and engages her in conversation. Unbeknownst to him, there is a police sting operation taking place and this particular woman is actually an undercover vice officer. The conversation eventually evolves into a discussion about an exchange of favors, favors in violation of 647b of the penal code. Bob is then arrested and placed in a patrol car. While being taken to the police station, the arresting officer asked Bob, "What were you thinking?" Bob then confessed to a violation of the penal code. At the station, however, Bob is read his Miranda rights for the first time and asked to give a statement. He promptly refuses.

Story 3: Cindy is swerving her SUV erratically all over the 101 Freeway when she is noticed by a surveying CHP officer. She is eventually stopped for a speeding infraction. She is asked the usual license and registration questions. Right away, the officer smells the odor of alcohol and requests that she step out of the vehicle. The officer believes that she is driving under the influence and begins to ask her questions: "Where have you been tonight? Where are you headed tonight? Have you been drinking?" The officer asks Cindy to perform a series of field sobriety tests. Cindy performs poorly and admits to drinking four apple martinis within the last hour. She is placed under arrest for DUI and advised of her Miranda rights. Cindy remains silent, instead choosing to speak with her lawyer.

Story 4: Daniel and Frank are standing on the corner of a local neighborhood. George approaches them, asking to purchase rock cocaine. After what appears to be a hand-to-hand drug transaction, all three are arrested by narcotic officers who were conducting surveillance in the area. While conducting a pat down of the suspects, Officer Lucky finds rock cocaine in Frank’s jacket pocket. Officer Lucky tells his partner that if no one admits to these drugs, everyone is going to prison. Frank spontaneously says the drugs are his alone.

In the examples above, are there any recognizable violations of the Miranda rights?

What are the implications of a Miranda violation?

A defense attorney must inform the court and prosecutor of the Miranda violation in order to have a hearing on the matter. A superior court judge will then review the facts of the case to determine whether the peace officers involved violated any of the Miranda rules. The prosecution may not use incriminating statements stemming from custodial interrogations of the defendant, unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards.

The interrogating officer may be called to testify whether or not prior to any questions, he informed the defendant that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney (either retained or appointed). If it is determined that these rules have not been adhered to, the statements will be suppressed and inadmissible for trial.

A person may of course waive invocation of these rights, provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently. The important thing is to know your Miranda rights!