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Miranda: The Most Misunderstood Aspect of Modern Law Enforcement | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Miranda: The Most Misunderstood Aspect of Modern Law Enforcement

[blockquote]”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 talk to a lawyer and have him/her present with you while you are questioned. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning if you wish. You can decide at any time to exercise these rights and not answer any questions or make any statements.

Do you understand each of these rights I have explained to you?

With these rights in mind, do you wish to talk to us at this time?”[/blockquote]

The above words, known as the Miranda Rights, are popularly the most widely recognized statement in modern law enforcement. Unfortunately, they are also the most widely misunderstood by both the criminal they protect and the law enforcement officers tasked with their administration.

Do you know when Miranda is required? Do you understand that administering these warnings before being required can hamper your investigation or worse stop it dead in its tracks?

Due in no small part to television, many Americans believe that Miranda Warnings are required to be administered immediately upon arrest and that if these warnings are not immediately given, then the suspect will go free. This is simply not true.

  1. First, Miranda Warnings are required prior to custodial interrogation or questioning, not simply following arrest.
  2. Second, if Miranda Warnings are not given, it is not an automatic get out of jail free card. Even if the warnings might have been required, there are a number of legally recognized exceptions which, if they exist, would allow any evidence discovered during or after the questioning to be admissible in court.
  3. Third, unnecessarily administering Miranda Warnings can cause an otherwise talkative suspect to immediately shut down. Even if in custody, voluntary statements made by a suspect, without prompting or questioning by police, are not only valuable but also admissible.

Take, for example, the following scenario:

ArrestedYou stop a motor vehicle for suspected driving under the influence. Following the required field sobriety testing, which in your jurisdiction is not subject to Miranda Warnings, you are preparing to transport the suspect to the local hospital for chemical testing. Do you Mirandize or not?

I say NO. First, although the suspect is in custody, it is unlikely you will be questioning him while driving him to the hospital. Second, if not Mirandized, the suspect is more likely to randomly talk even if not questioned by you. Even if he does not make an incriminating statement, such as “Man, I can’t believe how much I drank tonight! I’ve never been able to down an entire bottle of whisky before,” his speech pattern and choice of subjects alone may be evidence of intoxication. The key is to NEVER question the suspect, or give him any reason to believe he is being questioned. Simply drive and listen.

Of course this is but one simple scenario and each situation is different. The point is there are times when Miranda is not needed and should not be administered. I suggest that you keep abreast of recent court rulings in your jurisdiction and question your chain of command or local prosecutors for specific guidance. In the end, knowing as much as criminals think they know will make you a better officer and better investigator.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

1 thought on “Miranda: The Most Misunderstood Aspect of Modern Law Enforcement

  1. This is very different to our obligations in South Australia. Here, we have to “caution” a person whenever we suspect that an offence has been committed. “I am going to ask you some further questions, you are not obliged to answer them, but anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?”

    If an arrest is made, we are to give them their rights as soon as is practicable after the arrest –

    1) You are entitled to make, in the presence of a member of Police, one telephone call to nominated relative or friend, to inform that person of your whereabouts. Do you understand this right? Do you have any request in relation to this right?

    2) You are entitled to have a solicitor, relative, or friend, present during any interrogation or investigation whilst in custody. Do you understand this right? Do you have any request in relation to this right?

    3) If English is not your native tongue, you are entitled to an interpreter to assist you. Do you understand this right? Do you have any request in relation to this right?

    4) You are entitled to refrain from answering any questions whilst in custody, unless required to answer the question under this, or any other Act or law. (For example, a suspect is required by law to state their personal details) Do you understand? Anything you do say may be taken down and given in evidence? Do you understand?

    5) After you have been taken to (insert name) Police Station, you are entitled to apply to the Officer in charge for release on bail. Do you understand this right?

    If an officer has reason to suspect that an offence has been committed, and then forgets or omits the caution, nothing that is said is admissible in court, up until the point that a caution is eventually given. Defence solicitors are hot on this one, and will grill Police in court about the exact time that they actually suspected their client of committing an offence, and if there is any delay in giving the caution.

    If the arrest rights are either omitted, or it can be proven that they were not given within a suitable time, then the whole case can be thrown out.

    These things are grilled into the minds of Police right from the Academy – if you suspect an offence, give the caution. If you arrest a person, unless it’s not practicable, IE you are in a burning building and should most likely get out first, then give them their arrest rights immediately.

    Thanks for reading, and happy Policing.

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