Arrested and Not Read My Rights!

rights…The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he/she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he/she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he/she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him/her.
United States Supreme Court,  Miranda v. Arizona

Hollywood has done both a service and disservice in raising awareness of what have come to be known as the Miranda Warnings.  Miranda warnings are the rights you are commonly read when arrested by the police.  In the movies and television shows, the police always read off a memorized statement of rights to the suspect they are hand cuffing before they throw him into the back of their car.  These movies have been a service to the public at large in that they make people aware that they indeed have these rights, and these rights must be read to them.  It has done a disservice to the public in that the movies and television shows do not explain when your rights must be read to you, and what the consequences are when they do not read them to you.  The movies and television shows make it look like your rights must be read to you whenever you are taken into custody, but that is not the case.

The reason that law enforcement is required to read the ‘Miranda Warnings’ is because historically the public has been unaware of exactly what their rights are.  If you do not know what your rights are, then obviously it is going to make it a little difficult to exercise those rights.

The truth about Miranda Warnings is, they do not have to be read to a suspect that is simply being arrested.  The warning has to be read to a suspect before he is questioned while in custody.  The reason police will sometimes read a suspect his rights when he is arrested is so that anything he says after he is arrested will be clearly admissible in court.  For example, after a suspect is arrested and placed in the police car, the officer may casually ask the suspect questions on the way to the jail.  The suspect may answer those questions.  If those questions have any relevance to a crime, the suspect may have a basis to suppress those statements at trial as a violation of his constitutional rights.  So some police agencies just read the rights to every individual suspect they arrest.  Many agencies do not.

There really are no ‘Miranda Rights’, there are only constitutional rights.  What we call ‘Miranda Rights’ are actually just a group of constitutional rights related to criminal law.  The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution grant a defendant a right against self incrimination, and a right to an attorney during every stage of a criminal prosecution.

If a suspect is questioned by the police, while in custody, and hasn’t been read his rights, the statements the suspect makes to the police can be suppressed by a court for a violation of the Defendant’s constitutional rights.  But if the police simply never read the suspect his rights, and never question him while in custody, then there is no violation of his rights, and consequently no remedy.

 

What happens to a witness (or victim) if they fail to appear for court?

One question I am often asked, but I am reluctant to answer is, what will happen to a witness (or alleged victim) if the witness fails to show up for court?  I am most frequently asked this question by a witness who is the wife or girlfriend of a defendant in a domestic battery or domestic assault case.  I suspect they are asking this because they hope that their absence from court will result in a dismissal of the defendant’s case. Continue reading

Do juries get it wrong?

I am often surprised at how passionate people get about how wrong a jury verdict is when they know very little about the case. We often see great passion from the general public in verdicts like the infamous criminal trials like the O.J. Simpson trial. People will talk for hours about how wrong the jury verdict was, but ultimately tell you very little about the details of the case.

Continue reading

Top five rules to abide by if you have been accused of a crime.

Although I believe the system can be unfair, defendant’s do not do themselves any favors in ensuring themselves a fair shake. One thing is for sure, a defendant without guidance, whether guilty or innocent, can really make a mess of his case. And if you are a defendant accused of domestic violence, or any other crime, I hope this advise will keep you from digging yourself a deeper hole. Continue reading

Criminal defendants with less money are more guilty?

One thing is for certain, the vast majority of those in custody in this country’s state prisons, or under supervision by the State, are of the lowest class when it comes to economic wealth. That fact is undisputed. Among those entering prison in the United States in 1991, about 70 percent earned less than $15,000 a year when they were arrested, and 45 percent didn’t have a full-time job. One in four prisoners is mentally ill, and 64 percent never graduated from high school. According to this article, being poor means you are arrested at a higher rate, convicted at a higher rate, and sentenced more harshly. What is unknown, and debated, is why those who are poor end up being convicted of crimes at such high rates. Some say that stupidity got them where they are today. Stupidity made them poor, stupidity caused them to make stupid decisions, and stupidity put them in prison. Others say it’s a moral issue. Immoral behavior made them poor, and immoral behavior got them in trouble, and immoral behavior put them in prison. Continue reading