Miranda Warnings

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We’re all familiar with the Miranda Warning. The reading of your rights came out of a 1966 Supreme Court case where it was determined that the rights of Ernest Miranda had been violated in his arrest in Arizona. On TV, we often see a suspect sitting in an interrogation room. The cops may ask each other if he’d been read his rights. But, as we should know, TV often gets things wrong and this is one of them.

Police can, and in real life often, do what is called a non-custodial interview where they don’t need to Mirandize the person they are questioning. There are two conditions that must exist for someone to be Mirandized.

The first condition is interrogation. If the person is being questioned, this condition is true. It can be at the suspects home, standing in a field, or in an interrogation room. Police generally prefer an interrogation room because they can more easily control things.

The second condition is custody. If the police say, “You are free to leave at anytime” and then allow you to leave, there was no custody. But if at anytime the police stop you from leaving for any reason, such as you don’t want to answer any more question, you are hungry, or you have to use the restroom, you are in custody.

If both conditions are not met, Miranda is not required.

Let’s look at a scenario. Fred is a suspect in a murder investigation. Detectives show up at his house and begin to ask questions. Fred gets up, goes to the kitchen and returns with a pack of cigarettes and lights up. A few minutes later, he admits to being the killer. The police then handcuff him, read him his rights, and takes him to the station. Is Fred’s admission admissible in court?

The answer is yes. Fred was not in custody at the time he admitted to the murder. But, any good cop would have him repeat his confession or even write it out, after the arrest.

So, to keep your stories accurate, remember my Miranda Warning.

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