Your Rights

"The police never read me my rights"

This is the most common statement I hear from my clients. Essentially people want to know if the failure to instruct a criminal of his rights pursuant to Miranda will cause a case to be dismissed. Usually the answer is no. Sometimes, however, if the police do follow the law in this area, the governments case can suffer fatal consequences. Here are some important considerations:

"Miranda Rights" are named after the U.S. Supreme Court case, Miranda v Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966). The police must advise suspects of their "Miranda Rights" - their right to remain silent, their right to an attorney, and the right to an appointed attorney if they are unable to afford counsel - prior to conducting a custodial interrogation. If a suspect is not in police "custody" the police do not have to warn him of his rights. Although it is not required, many officers customarily have suspects sign a rights waiver form to indicate that they understood their rights.

Determining what constitutes "custodial" interrogation is often a vague issue. A person may be in custody for purposes of Miranda even if the police have not told him he is "under arrest."

If a suspect is interrogated in custody without being read his rights, the statement he makes is excluded from evidence. Furter, if an illigally obtained statement tells the police where to find evidence that they wouldn't have found otherwise, that evidence is also excluded as "fruit of the poisonous tree." Legally, it's as if the confession never happened.

Sometimes charges may be dismissed as the result of suppression of evidence because of a failure to read the Miranda warnings. If the court excludes an illegally obtained confession and the prosecution does not have enough evidence left to pursue the case, the Defendant will be found not guilty. But failure to read a suspect his Miranda rights before questioning does not automaticallyc require the dismissal of a case. Although these rules apply to all criminal matters, some types of cases are more prone to be affected by tha admissability if the defendant's statement. Cases involving drug posession, sex crimes, murder, larceny offenses, DUI, criminal harrassment, and obstruction of justice are frequently altered by incriminating statements by the accused. Some other cases like assaults and trespass are less frequently determined based upon statements from the defendant.

When the police have failed to inform a person of his rights, his lawyer must determine how and if this omission can be used to his client's advantage. If you have been charged with a crime, you should promptly inform your criminal defense lawyer of all the circumstances surrounding your arrest. The police actions during this crucial time may affect the evidence that will be admitted in your trial.

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