“The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or 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 or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent her or him.” Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
Though the Miranda rights have long been enshrined in our culture and recited endlessly by detectives in movies or on television shows, these rights, both in their application and their meaning, remain an enigma to nearly everyone outside the criminal justice system.
Contrary to popular opinion, neither the Miranda decision nor the Supreme Court decisions interpreting it require a police officer to recite the Miranda warnings to an individual at the time he is arrested or taken into custody. Instead, the Supreme Court requires the police or FBI agents to recite the warnings before interrogating those they have taken into custody. Therefore, unless these law enforcement agents intend to question the individual, they are under no obligation to recite the warnings.
Boston Drug Trafficking Lawyer’s Advice
If, prior to questioning a suspect they have in custody, the police fail or refuse to recite the warnings to him, and the individual makes incriminating statements in response to that questioning, the suspect – or defendant – can challenge the constitutionality, and therefore the admissibility, of his statements. Should a court conclude that the defendant, while in custody, made incriminating statements in response to police initiated interrogation, without having first been informed of his Miranda rights, it is empowered to rule these statements inadmissible at the trial. If, however, the police fail to recite the warnings to an individual in custody before questioning him, but individual says nothing in response, there is no available remedy for the defendant.
Once an individual, whether or not he has been so warned, asserts his right to silence or to a lawyer, the police are absolutely prohibited from further questioning him. If, thereafter, the police persuade the individual to break his silence or submit to questioning without the presence of a lawyer, the court may suppress his statements.
Kevin J. Mahoney is a Cambridge Drug Trafficking Attorney.