Most people have heard of “Miranda Rights.” But what exactly are Miranda rights? When are police required to Mirandize a suspect? And what really happens when the police fail to read someone their Miranda rights?
What exactly are Miranda rights?
“Miranda rights” are a part of the Fifth Amendment privilege again st self-incrimination. The purpose behind Miranda is to prevent government officials from using the coercive nature of confinement to extract confessions that would not be given in an unrestrained environment.
When are the police required to read someone his Miranda Rights?
The police are required to read a person his Rights when that person is subject to “custodial interrogation”.
A person is in custody when she is deprived of her freedom of action in a significant way. This is basically a formal arrest or its functional equivalent. A person is considered to be in “custody” for purposes of Miranda when a reasonable person would feel that he or she is not free to leave due to the government agent’s conduct. This is an objective test. If a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would understand her freedom to terminate questioning and leave, she is not considered to be in custody.
Interrogation is express questioning or anything likely to elicit an incriminating response.
When are Miranda warnings not required?
As you can see from above, Miranda warnings are only required when a person is subject to custodial interrogation. The Court has pointed out specific instances in which Miranda warnings are not required. Some examples include:
Probation interviews and routine traffic stops are not considered custodial; therefore, Miranda Warnings are not required.
Miranda warnings are not required when the suspect is unaware that he is speaking to a law enforcement officer and gives a voluntary statement.
If an officer is responding properly to a potential emergency, he may not be required to Mirandize a suspect. Also, an officer’s concern for public safety can justify a failure to Mirandize a suspect.
If the suspect offers a spontaneous declaration that is not in response to police interrogation, Miranda warnings are not required first.
Routine booking questions do not require that a suspect be Mirandized first. Some examples of routine booking questions include name, date of birth, place of employment, next of kin, current drug/alcohol use, and height/weight/eye color. As long as the questions are routine and not designed to give an incriminating response, such booking questions do not require Miranda warnings.
What really happens when the police fail to Mirandize a suspect?
If an officer does not Mirandize a suspect when he was legally obligated to do so, does that person get to just walk? Well, no. But the good news is that a suspect’s statements and any evidence obtained as a result of these statements cannot be used as evidence against the suspect in court. Such statements may, however, be admissible as rebuttal evidence to impeach the witness.