The Miranda rule is the basis for the term “Miranda rights,” which refers to the rights of an individual who is in police custody and who is being interrogated. If you have ever watched a police procedural on television, you may remember the opening words of someone being read their Miranda rights, also known as being “Mirandized.” The statement read by the police to their suspect usually begins with the words, “You have the right to remain silent.”

The term “Miranda,” itself, originated from the know-famous court case titled “Miranda v. Arizona (court cases are often referred to, in short version, by the name of the plaintiff, which in this case was “Miranda”).

This decision in this case was rendered in 1966. It involved discussion of whether a suspect’s statements, made while in police custody and while being interrogated, were admissible as evidence in court. Essentially, the decision was that suspects in police custody must be informed of certain rights before being interrogated, otherwise, any statements they make during the interrogation are inadmissible in court.

What Rights are Included in those Prescribed by the Miranda Rule?

The Miranda rule mandates that a suspect taken into police custody must be read their rights before they may be interrogated. The rights may vary somewhat by police department, but are generally as follows:

  • The right to remain silent. This right may be invoked before or during interrogation. Once invoked, interrogation must cease;
  • The right to be aware that anything you say can be used against you in court;
  • The right to have an attorney present during interrogations. Once requested, interrogation must cease until attorney is present; and
  • The right to be provided an attorney if you cannot afford one. The court would then appoint a public defender.

Following the reading of these rights, the suspect should be asked if they understand them. They must actually respond. Silence will not be interpreted as having assented to interrogation, and may render evidence inadmissible.

When Does the Miranda Rule Not Apply?

In order for the rule to apply, a suspect must be in police custody, and being interrogated/about to be interrogated. If these conditions are not present, the rule does not apply. But what constitutes custody? What is considered to be an interrogation?

The law is not clear on this, and it is often interpreted based on legal precedent (so lawsuits or cases that have been decided). Below, we will attempt to further clarify this complex issue.

What is Considered to Be “In Custody?”

Being “in custody” of the police means you are not free to leave. Usually, this means that the police have arrested you. Simply having the police ask you questions when you are free to leave at any time does not amount to a need for Miranda rights to be read.

However, even if you were not formally arrested and handcuffs were placed on you, if you are confined to an area (typically a room) and are not allowed to leave the room then you are held in custody. You typically must make an attempt to leave in order to make it clear that you are held in custody.

Since the law is constantly changing on this issue, it is not always clear as to whether simply being held by the police by the road side and threatened would be considered custody. Some jurisdictions require that there be an actual sense of confinement, but others will say that the person feeling that they are unable to leave is enough.

What Constitutes an “Interrogation?”

Interrogation is formal questioning in which police are asking questions that may lead you to implicate yourself in a crime. However, until interrogation begins, no Miranda warning need be given.

But when simple questioning ends and interrogation begins is not always clear. Sometimes, the police officers involved will attempt to be very casual/calm as to not show that it is a proper interrogation. Sometimes it is not even clear to the person being held that an interrogation even began.

The answer is not always clear, but what is clear that is wrongfully gathered from an interrogation that violates the person’s Miranda rights will almost always be banned from being used against them.

How Can a Person Waive Their Miranda Rights?

It is possible for a person to waive their Miranda rights. This would mean that what is required by the Miranda rule is no longer required. A suspect could then be questioned without their attorney present.

A person could waive their rights in a couple of different ways. For one, they could specifically state that they waive their rights, and choose to answer police questions without an attorney present. Or, the suspect might simply keep speaking once they have been giving the warning. If the suspect continues to speak to the police without their attorney present once they have been Mirandized, then they are considered sufficiently warned and their statements may be used as evidence against them in court.

However, it is always best practice for the suspect to clearly and formally waive their Miranda rights. Which requires that they explain they understood their rights but are purposefully choosing to ignore them.

How is the Miranda Rule Enforced?

Ultimately, the Miranda Rule is enforced in the court of law where the defense can argue that the suspect was not properly Mirandized and therefore whatever evidence came from it should be barred/thrown out.

There are a number of ways in which the Miranda rule can be violated. One of the most obvious of these is that, if a police officer neglects to read the Miranda warning to a suspect in their custody before interrogating them, and no attorney is present, the rule is violated and any statements obtained are inadmissible.

It can be difficult, though, to make sure the rule is always observed. The police should know the rule, but may know understand how to invoke it properly (as stated earlier, it’s not always clear as to what violates the Miranda rule). Many suspects may be unaware of their exact rights without being properly informed of them. The rule may be violated accidentally.

Therefore, attorneys bear a responsibility to their clients to make sure the Miranda rule was correctly observed. The attorney should confer with their client, the suspect, to determine whether there were any violations of the rule in the way in which the suspect was questioned.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Miranda Procedures and Rules?

The Miranda rule can present complication for a legal case, especially when it is not observed properly. A criminal lawyer is generally necessary if you are facing criminal charges. An attorney can review your case to determine whether your Miranda rights were correctly observed or not.