“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?”
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.
- First, Miranda Warnings are required prior to custodial interrogation or questioning, not simply following arrest.
- 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.
- 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:
You 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.
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