Criminal Defense Questions: Do Police Have to Read a Suspect Their Rights When They’re Arrested?

Criminal Defense Questions: Do Police Have to Read a Suspect Their Rights When They’re Arrested?

Criminal defense attorneys frequently get asked about the Miranda Rights and when police must read their rights to someone. Largely this occurs because of the discrepancy between what people see on TV and how police behave in reality. On TV police almost always give the Miranda Rights warning (commonly known as “reading them their rights”) to suspects as they’re being cuffed and stuffed into a squad car. But this rarely happens in reality.

For example, a friend of ours recently had occasion to watch police arrest a man who committed a crime against a member our friend’s family. As the suspect began to resist arrest, he shouted, “You gotta read me my rights, you gotta read me my rights!” The officers’ response as they crammed him into a squad car? “We don’t have to read you your rights.”

At that response, our friend became alarmed. He didn’t want that guy to escape punishment because the arresting officers failed to read him his rights.

When Police Are and Aren’t Required to Read a Person Their Rights

However, our friend had nothing to worry about. Police are not required to give the Miranda warning to someone unless the suspect is being questioned about a crime they are being investigated for AND are in a custodial situation. A person is in a custodial situation when they are not free to leave. This can happen even if you are not under arrest. In our friend’s case, police were not questioning the suspect, only arresting him. Therefore they were not required to give the Miranda warning.

However, police would be required to give the Miranda warning to the suspect before interrogating him at the police station. Once the Miranda warning has been given, anything a suspect says in response to police questioning can be used as testimony against the suspect in court.

Police also are not required to give a Miranda warning to anyone who is free to leave - even if it does not look like they are. A person is not free to leave if police are restricting their freedom in the course of fulfilling their law enforcement duties. If police put someone in handcuffs, require them to sit in the back seat of a police car, or take them to jail, that person is under arrest. However, a person is NOT under arrest if police question them on the street, in their home, after pulling them over for a traffic violation, etc. and have not restrained them. Under these circumstances, any responses a suspect gives to police questioning can be used in court even though the Miranda warning was not given. Only when the cuffs go on (or police take other action to restrain the suspect) does the law require police to give the Miranda warning before questioning.

QUICK REFERENCE: When the Miranda Warning is Required

Situation

Miranda warning required?

Testimony admissible
in court?

Suspect arrested (cuffed, placed in squad car, etc.) but not questioned

No

No

Suspect questioned, but not arrested; i.e. on the street or during a traffic stop

No

Yes

Subject cuffed and questioned on location

Yes

Yes (if Miranda warning given)

Subject required to sit in squad car and questioned on location or on route to police station

Yes

Yes (if Miranda warning given)

Subject taken “downtown” and questioned

Yes

Yes (if Miranda warning given)

Suspect voluntarily meets with police at police station

No

Yes

Protect Your Rights with Help from the Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers at Stinson Law Group

The criminal defense attorneys at Stinson Law Group can help people charged with crimes in Wyoming and Montana protect their rights and keep illegally obtained testimony from being used against them. If you’ve been charged with a crime, Stinson Law Group can help you understand your rights and exercise them in a way that will get you the best results possible. In many cases, our help can get charges reduced or dropped and help you avoid excessive penalties. Call the criminal defense lawyers at Stinson Law Group toll free today for a free consultation: (888) 527-6090.

Categories: Criminal Defense

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