I got arrested, but I wasn’t read Miranda Rights. Were my rights violated?

Movies and TV cause our clients and their families to have many questions about Miranda rights. We commonly hear, "Well, they didn't read me my Miranda rights when they arrested me." 

When are Miranda rights required?

The State cannot use a defendant’s statements from a custodial interrogation unless it demonstrates that the Miranda warnings were given, and those Miranda rights were knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived. This standard was established in the well-known case Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The Miranda Court said that a custodial interrogation means a questioning by law enforcement after a person is in custody or deprived of his freedom in a significant way. When members of the criminal justice system are determining whether an individual is in custody, the question focuses on what a reasonable person would have understood to be the case at the time. Meaning, would a reasonable person have understood that he was under arrest at the time? The answer does not depend on what the officer thought about whether the person was in custody at the time.

To analyze that question, we look at all of the factors surrounding the interaction, which is referred to as the totality of the circumstances. The totality of the circumstances is a common legal phrase used in many other legal analyses; however, in this context it includes the defendant’s freedom to leave; the purpose, place and length of interrogation; and the degree of restraint. From there, the degree of restraint is broken down further into additional considerations of whether the individual is handcuffed, whether a weapon is drawn, whether the individual is frisked; the manner of restraint, whether he is moved to another location, whether questioning occurred in a police vehicle, and the number of officers involved.

How do I know if my rights were violated?

Most likely, you will need an experienced lawyer to look at your case to determine if your Miranda rights were violated due to the number of requirements. For example, there may be an avenue to challenge the statement on the grounds that the circumstances indicate that you were under arrest at the time even if you were not handcuffed, or that the questions the officer asked constituted an interrogation. A significant circumstance in this analysis includes whether this was during a traffic stop, or some other type of police contact. Police are typically given more leeway during a traffic stop for a criminal offense, and aren't constrained by Miranda where the traffic offense is non-criminal.

Other issues can arise where people have waived their Miranda rights and agreed to talk to police. That waiver must be knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently made. If there are questions about whether these requirements were met – such as apparent coercion – then there may be another avenue of challenge. Again, it is dependent upon the circumstances present at the time you agreed to talk to them that would have made you agree to talk.

So my rights weren’t violated if I was arrested without having Miranda read to me?

Like most things in the law, the answer is it depends. Determining whether your Miranda rights were violated depends upon all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the statement. Generally speaking, there is no requirement that police read you your Miranda rights when you are being arrested. That is something used to spice up TV and movies, and is not based in legal procedure.  

That said, there are times when Miranda rights would be required at the time of arrest. It would be strongly affected by whether police were questioning you during this time, or the events that led up to your arrest or just after it. The team at Mastantuono & Coffee have challenged this very issue and won before, resulting in the dismissal of criminal charges.

Most recently, Attorney Leah Thomas had a client charged with Driving Without Owner’s Consent – a felony in Wisconsin. Her client was an 18-year-old high school graduate looking to join the military when he was charged with driving a stolen vehicle. Police took a statement from him in which he made incriminating admissions, but he never admitted to driving the vehicle. Based on a close review of the body camera video, Attorney Thomas was able to challenge that statement – that although the client was still on scene (or at the place where he was arrested) and he was not handcuffed at the time, that statement was still taken in violation of his Miranda rights based upon the circumstances. The court agreed, suppressing that statement, and the State dismissed the case due to an inability to proceed with any charges.  

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