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Miranda Warnings

The Police Never Read Me My Rights.  Doesn't My Case Have to be Dismissed Now?

NO.

The police do not have to read anyone his rights. Thanks to unfortunate misrepresentations in movies and television shows, the general public believe that if a police officer fails to read the Miranda warnings to a person who is arrested, that the case will be "thrown out." There is a general sense that serial killers and rapists routinely walk out of court victorious because the arresting officers forgot to read the warnings.

This is complete nonsense.

NO CASE IN NEW YORK STATE HAS EVER BEEN DISMISSED BECAUSE A POLICE OFFICER FORGOT TO READ A SUSPECT HIS RIGHTS. NO MURDERER HAS EVER WALKED AWAY FROM A CASE IN NEW YORK STATE BECAUSE THE POLICE OFFICER FORGOT TO READ HIM HIS RIGHTS.

Mr. Miranda himself, the murder defendant whose case became so famous, did not walk away from his case. He was retried, CONVICTED, and sent to jail.

The police only have to read you your rights IF THEY WANT TO INTERROGATE YOU and IF YOU ARE IN CUSTODY.  If you are not in custody or if you are in custody but you are not being interrogated, then the police are not required to read you anything.  Furthermore, our appeals courts have managed to define "interrogation" and "custody" almost out of existence so that it seems like there is no such thing as "custody" or "interrogation".  For example, there have been cases in which a suspect has been held in a police station longer than 24 hours and not permitted to leave that have been determined by our appellate courts NOT to have involved "custody".

For a variety of reasons, some of which include the way interrogation and custody have been defined out of existence, Miranda was actually one of the best things that ever happened to the Police and Prosecutors.  Publicly, police propaganda may make statements about how Miranda has "hamstrung" their ability to do good police work.  Privately, the police will usually acknowledge that at worst Miranda has no impact on their job and in some ways has made it easier for them.  Rest assured that while the police may be worried about a great many things during the course of making arrests, worries about compliance with Miranda are at the bottom of the list.

Even in the worst case scenario for the police, if a judge actually decides that there has been a Miranda violation, the only penalty to the prosecution is that the statement is not admissible in the Government's case at trial.  If, after the Government rests, the defendant has the audacity to take the stand and make some claim that is different from the claim that was obtained in violation of Miranda, the Government can then USE THE STATEMENT AGAINST HIM ANYWAY.

The image of drooling violent criminals ambling out of court victorious as the result of Miranda violations is a wonderful backdrop for movies like Dirty Harry.  But it is not reality.

Don A. Murray, Esq.

 

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