Posted on March 10, 2017

Explanation of your “Miranda Rights” in all Criminal Cases

A common misconception is that police must always admonish a suspect of their Miranda rights.  Rather, law enforcement is only mandated to advise a suspect of their Miranda rights in the event the suspect is subjected to: 1) a custodial arrest; and 2) interrogation.  The circumstances triggering Miranda warnings is factually specific.  Typically, an evidentiary hearing consisting of testimony and it’s held prior to trial to determine the admissibility of a suspect’s statement(s).  If the judge rules law enforcement committed a Miranda violation, then the court will order the suspect’s statements suppressed.  Consequently, the District Attorney may be prevented from introducing a defendant’s statements in their case in chief.

It should be noted that Miranda is specific to an individual defendant.  Moreover, a defendant cannot object, nor do they have standing, to the prosecutor’s introduction of another person’s incriminating statements under Miranda.

Miranda is governed under the Fifth Amendment of the California and United States Constitution.  Miranda was born with the idea that a suspect accused of a crime should be aware that their statements could serve as the governments’ evidence.  There are several areas concerning the admissibility of a defendant’s statements such as invoking the right to counsel, asserting the right to remain silent, or a defective advisement deeming the statement(s) as involuntary.

The first prong of Miranda holds that a person is in custody when a reasonable person in the suspect’s positon does not feel free to leave.  However, courts have opined that merely being detained, such as a traffic stop, is a limited detention and not intrusive enough to constitute a custodial arrest for Miranda purposes.  Courts have set forth factual circumstances to consider prior to concluding whether a suspect is in custody to trigger Miranda warnings.  These factors include 1) whether the suspect is in handcuffs; 2) whether the suspect was free to end the police encounter at any time; 3) whether the officer was armed with probable cause to effectuate the arrest of the suspect; and 4) whether the suspect is in a police dominated atmosphere.

Second Miranda prong, a person is subjected to interrogation when police engage in a line of questioning reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.  Interrogation can come in the form of direct questioning or its functional equivalent such as passive statements made to fellow officers in the presence of a suspect.  Mere investigative inquiries, such as during an emergency, often dispel the interrogation nature of the questioning.

Ways to prevent law enforcement from questioning a suspect further is to unambiguously assert the right to remain silent or demanding the presence of an attorney prior to answering any questions.  By asserting the right to remain silent, police must cease further questioning for a reasonable period.  And by asserting the right to counsel, police must cease questioning for a minimum of 14 days.  Failing to scrupulously honor assertion will result in the suppression of a defendant’s statements.

For more information or to schedule a free confidential consultation, contact an Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers.

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