If you commit a crime – and in spite of what you’ve seen on television – you can’t avoid justice simply because you are not “read your rights.” The law regarding your “Miranda” rights is slightly more complicated than that. If the police fail to read the Miranda rights during or immediately after an arrest, it’s probable that nothing the suspect says to the police can be used against the suspect during a trial. And like everything else in the law, there are exceptions to that rule as well.

While this is a general introduction to the topic of Miranda rights and criminal law, anyone who is actually charged with a crime in Southern California who and believes that his or her Miranda rights were not explained properly – or were violated – by the police will need to speak about the particulars of the case – and what to do next – with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.

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In 1966, the United States Supreme Court’s historic decision in Miranda v. Arizona established “Miranda” rights for criminal suspects in all fifty states. Upon reviewing the evidence in the original case, a majority of the Supreme Court’s justices decided that the constitutional rights of Ernesto Miranda had been violated by the police during his arrest and trial for a number of serious felony charges.

PRECISELY WHAT ARE YOUR MIRANDA RIGHTS?

Since the Miranda ruling, law enforcement officers have been required to explain a suspect’s Miranda rights after an arrest but before any interrogation. A suspect’s Miranda rights are the right to remain silent, the right to have an attorney present during any interrogation, and the right to have a lawyer appointed if the suspect cannot afford a lawyer. Additionally, a suspect must be told that “anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.”

It’s genuinely important for everyone to understand that your Miranda rights are your rights at all times and in all circumstances, but police officers are only required to read these rights to you during the interval between an arrest and before an interrogation. If you are not under arrest, for example, anything you say to the police can be used against you, but the police do not have to inform you of that. However, if someone is in police custody, the police must read that person’s Miranda rights before asking any questions.

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In fact, law enforcement officers who are conducting a criminal investigation will often delay making an actual arrest specifically to avoid having to read a suspect his or her Miranda rights. That way, they may be able to obtain the incriminating statements they’re seeking before making the arrest and becoming obligated to read the rights. If the police want to ask you questions for any reason, many criminal defense lawyers will advise you to exercise your right to remain silent.

WHAT IF YOU ARE ARRESTED, BUT YOUR RIGHTS ARE NOT READ TO YOU?

The law recognizes several exceptions to law enforcement’s obligation to read a suspect’s Miranda rights after an arrest but prior to an interrogation. In some cases, if the police are responding to a potential emergency, they don’t have to read you your rights. In a 2013 New York murder case, police officers were frantically searching for a victim they believed was dying. When the police had a suspect in custody – a man covered in blood – they immediately sought information from him regarding the victim. New York’s highest court allowed this emergency exception.

The judges in New York determined that the emergency exception is applicable when police officers have a reasonable belief that their immediate help is needed because of an emergency, when those officers are not exploiting the exception merely as a ruse to make an arrest and seize evidence, and when officers have a reasonable belief that the emergency is nearby and that quick action can help. The justices specified that wet blood on the defendant’s clothing and his inability to explain it justified the failure to read the suspect his rights.

WHEN IS THE “BOOKING QUESTION” EXCEPTION ALLOWED?

A second potential exception – recognized by California courts – is called the “booking question” exception. Booking questions are routine questions that a booking officer or jail staff ask suspects who are being booked. These are basic questions such as the suspect’s name, address, height, weight, and place of work. These questions are asked to identify suspects accurately and to ensure safety and security. Booking questions do not constitute formal interrogation because they are not aimed at eliciting incriminating evidence. Thus, booking officers usually do not read Miranda rights.

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A booking officer might, for example, routinely ask if a suspect has any contagious diseases. In many jails, for health reasons, contagious suspects are separated from the general population. If a suspect replies that he or she has HIV, and if the HIV status is pertinent to the criminal charge – let’s say the suspect is charged with rape – then the officer may testify regarding what the suspect said. Provided that the booking officer’s question was routine and wasn’t aimed at generating an incriminating answer, it won’t matter that the suspect wasn’t “Mirandized.”

As mentioned previously, if law enforcement officers fail to read a suspect’s Miranda rights after an arrest but before an interrogation, in most cases the prosecutor can’t use anything the suspect says against that suspect in a trial. But unlike what you’ve probably seen on television, the charge against the suspect probably will not be dismissed. The prosecutor will simply be required to offer other evidence independent of the suspect’s “unMirandized” statements.

A study published in 2007 in Law and Human Behavior surveyed 631 police interrogators and detectives about their interrogations. The officers said that about eighty percent of criminal suspects waive their Miranda rights and talk to the police without having an attorney’s counsel. That’s never a good idea, for a number of reasons, but primarily because your freedom and future might be at stake.

If you face any felony or misdemeanor charge in Southern California, now or in the future, speak with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney right away, and do not try to act as your own lawyer. Insist upon your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present during any questioning. Don’t make any confession, sign any document, or agree to any plea bargain with first seeking an experienced criminal defense attorney’s sound legal advice.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

The first thing we need to discuss is, when is the police are required to read to you your Miranda rights. Two things must be met. You need to be in custody or being held against your will by the police. Number two, they need to interrogate you regarding a crime or offense that they believe occurred or are investigating. Now, once those two requirements are met, if the police do not read to you your Miranda rights, then you can file for a motion to have your statements suppressed, meaning that your statements cannot be used against you in your current case.

However, that doesn’t always mean that your case will be dismissed. Because if the police have other evidence to show that there’s culpability regarding the crime, then they can obviously use that against you but not your statements. Also, the police often try to avoid having to read Miranda rights to you by stating that you’re free to leave, or they invite you to come to the police station, or they do a casual encounter in the street and they start asking you questions. Under any of those conditions, if you believe that you’re being investigated for a crime, you should immediately tell them that you don’t wanna talk to them, and that you want an attorney present before any questioning. You can in fact state that to the police even before they have read to you your Miranda rights.

By: Douglas Miranda

Los Angeles criminal attorney Douglas Miranda graduated with honors from California State University, Los Angeles, and earned his J.D. from Western State College of Law in Fullerton. Since his admission to practice law in California, he has received special training and certification in forensic science, jury selection, and sex crime defense. Mr. Miranda also helps clients terminate their probations early and expunge their criminal records.

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