Miranda Rule Definition

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 What is the Definition of the Miranda Rule?

The Miranda rule is the basis for the term “Miranda rights.” Miranda rights refer to the rights of an individual who is in police custody and 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 now-famous court case titled Miranda v. Arizona (court cases are often referred to, in a short version, by the name of the plaintiff, which in this case was “Miranda”).

This decision, in this case, was rendered in 1966. It discussed whether a suspect’s statements, made while in police custody and 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 the police department but generally are:

  • The right to remain silent. This right may be invoked before or during interrogation. Once invoked, the 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, the interrogation must stop until an attorney is present; and
  • The right to be provided an attorney if you cannot afford one. When a defendant cannot afford an attorney, the court appoints a public defender.

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

When Does the Miranda Rule Not Apply?

For the rule to apply, a suspect must be in police custody. The suspect must be being interrogated or 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 (lawsuits or cases that have previously been decided). Below, we will attempt to clarify this complex issue further.

What is Considered “In Custody?”

Being “in custody” of the police means you are not free to leave. Generally, 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 normally must attempt to leave to clarify that you are held in custody.

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

What Constitutes an “Interrogation?”

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

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

The answer is not always clear, but what is clear is that wrongfully gathered information 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?

A person can waive their Miranda rights. This would mean that what is required by the Miranda rule is no longer necessary. A suspect could then be questioned without their attorney present.

A person could waive their rights in several ways. They could expressly 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 given the warning. Suppose the suspect continues to speak to the police without their attorney present once they have been Mirandized. In that case, they are considered sufficiently warned, and their statements may be used as evidence against them in court.

However, it is always best for the suspect to clearly and formally waive their Miranda rights, which requires that they explain they understood their rights but purposefully 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 correctly Mirandized and, therefore, whatever evidence came from it should be barred or thrown out.

There are several ways in which the Miranda rule can be violated. One of the most obvious 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.

However, it can be challenging to make sure the rule is always observed. The police should know the rule and 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 adequately informed of them. The Miranda rule may be violated accidentally.

Therefore, attorneys bear a responsibility to their clients to ensure the Miranda rule was correctly observed. An attorney should confer with their client, the suspect, to determine whether there were any violations of the law in how the suspect was questioned.

Do Minors Have Miranda Rights?

Minors have the same Miranda rights as adults. Minors need not be given any additional information. In the past, there was confusion over whether officers must notify a minor that they have the right to speak with a parent before questioning or that they may have a parent during questioning. The answer to both is no. However, in Colorado, if a minor is in custody and questioned, a parent has to agree to waive the Miranda Rights along with the minor.

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

The Miranda rule can present complications for a legal case, mainly when it is not appropriately observed. 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.

Use LegalMatch’s services today to find an experienced criminal lawyer in your area today.


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