By Dhar Law, LLP
A defendant who confesses to a crime even though their Miranda rights were not properly read to them may have grounds to exclude the statement made during interrogation as inadmissible evidence; however, this doesn’t mean the case will be dismissed.
The statement might be inadmissible, but the prosecution can still rely on other evidence obtained legally, evidence that is not the fruit of the illegally obtained incriminating statement.
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WHAT ARE MIRANDA RIGHTS?
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that “no person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself,” which has been interpreted to mean that a person shall not be compelled to give self-incriminating testimony.
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) established the Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination as the basis for ruling upon the admissibility of a confession. In order for a confession to be admissible, Miranda warnings and valid waivers are prerequisites to the admissibility of any statement made by the accused during custodial interrogation.
A person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that:
They have the right to remain silent,
Anything they say can be used against them in court,
They have the right to the presence of an attorney, and
If they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for they if they so desire.
These are Miranda warnings.
WHEN ARE MIRANDA RIGHTS REQUIRED?
For a statement to be excluded under the Fifth Amendment Miranda rights, it must be made in a very specific context. If it isn’t, the statement will not be covered by the Fifth Amendment and, therefore, it will be considered admissible.
In order for a Miranda violation to occur, the statement must be made to publicly paid police (not an informant) during an interrogation when the person is in custody. If these circumstances are gathered, a police officer must read the interrogated person their Miranda warnings.
Since Miranda covers the privilege against self-incrimination, only incriminating statements made in those circumstances would be held inadmissible if Miranda warnings were not given.
MIRANDA RIGHTS EXCEPTION
One exception to the rule does exist, however. If the statement is given while the interrogated person is in custody, and the police interrogation is prompted by concern for public safety, the police don’t need to read the person their Miranda warnings (New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649 (1984)).
If Miranda Rights were not given properly, two scenarios are possible:
Only incriminating statements given during custodial interrogations by police officers are covered by Miranda rights and can be held inadmissible if there is a violation of Miranda. The judge will decide on this issue after a Motion to Suppress the Statements has been filed with the court.
THE INCRIMINATING STATEMENT IS DEEMED INADMISSIBLE AT TRIAL
As mentioned above, Miranda warnings protect only against incriminating statements, so any statement made during interrogation that is not incriminating can be used at trial even if Miranda warnings have not been given.
However, a confession made without Miranda warnings may be used during trial testimony to impeach the defendant on the stand if the confession was voluntary (Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222 (1971)). This is not the case with involuntary confessions, which are inadmissible for any purpose (Mincey v. Arizona, 437 US 385 (1978)).
THE INCRIMINATING STATEMENT AND ITS FRUITS ARE DEEMED INADMISSIBLE IF THE POLICE ACTED PURPOSEFULLY
If the police don’t read the detainee his/her Miranda warnings, but instead use information provided during the interrogation to find nontestimonial evidence, this evidence will be suppressed if the failure to give Miranda warnings was purposeful. If it wasn’t, the evidence might not be suppressed (United States v. Patane, 542 U.S. 630 (2004)).
If the police obtain a first confession without Miranda warnings and a second confession with Miranda warnings, the second confession might be inadmissible if it was intentional on the part of the police to use this method to get around Miranda warnings (Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004)).
In a nutshell, incriminating statements made in custody during police interrogation will be held inadmissible, as will evidence obtained through these statements if the police violated Miranda purposefully. Not having one’s Miranda rights read properly doesn’t mean the case will get dismissed but, it will most likely weaken the prosecution’s case because the confession will be held inadmissible.
Our Boston criminal defense lawyers are here to help protect your rights after an arrest. Contact us today for a consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 617 880-6155, or you can fill out a free case evaluation form here.