How to know if your miranda rights were violated
But they didn’t read me my rights!!!
Over a zillion (how many is that?) clients have angrily stated: “I’m innocent because the police didn’t read me my rights.” I never grow frustrated with clients when they say this. Television shows and movies have a way of taking a simple concept and complicating it to no end. Let’s try and clear up the confusion once and forever.
Very simply, if you are ever in a police officer’s presence and you do not feel that you are free to leave (walk away) and the officer is asking you questions (sort of like an interrogation) then, in all likelihood, you are entitled to invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. This right is famously recognized as a person’s Miranda rights (click here for more on Miranda). In addition to the right to remain silent, Miranda warnings include notice of your Constitutional right to have an attorney.
A properly given Miranda warning must include the following:
What happens if you feel that you are not free to leave BUT the police are not asking you questions (interrogating you)?
what if the officer simply approaches you after you’ve been in a bar fight to check if you are okay and you commence to explain your version of the events?
What if a police officer starts to recite your Miranda warning and you interrupt him/her with an explanation as to why you punched your ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend in the nose?
What if a police officer properly advises you of your Miranda rights and you exercise them at the time of arrest but change your mind in the back of the police car?
Let’s take an example.
After learning about your ex-girlfriend’s new love interest, your friends take you out for a night on the town. Suddenly you spot your ex with the new guy.
in a fit of rage you tackle the new guy to the ground and start swinging away (hockey style). A cop just so happens to pass by and all he sees is you tackle and punch the new guy in the face. Acting in accordance with his training, the cop immediately intervenes and stops the fight. He asks you to turn around and put your hands behind your back. He proceeds to slap on the silver bracelets and reads you your Miranda rights.
You keep silent and lawyer up.
The cop respects your decision and places you in the back seat of his police car. You are seated directly behind the police officer (less than two feet away) and definitely within earshot of him. As he is driving you to the police station to be processed you can’t stop thinking about your ex-girlfriend and her new lover.
You become obsessed thinking about how the new guy is so unattractive compared to you. You’re mind is spinning and your heart is racing. You can’t stop the voice in your head which keeps repeating, “How could she cheat on me with that guy? What does she see in him? How could she do this to me?” Suddenly your blood is boiling and in a state of emotional UNRAVELING you shout, “If I ever see that new guy again, I’ll kick his ass all over again!”
The question is: Can your incriminating statement be introduced into evidence at trial OR does your defense attorney have enough to prevail (win) on a Motion to Suppress?
The point of this example is that each criminal case is fact-sensitive and Miranda violations are not so easy to spot. For this reason, I have never grown frustrated when clients show outrage in my office regarding their Miranda rights. One could spend a lifetime examining the volumes that have been written regarding Miranda warnings. Our highest Federal and State courts have provided vast case analysis and have rendered important decisions regarding Miranda issues.
In closing, I’d like to share a piece of advice my Uncle Charlie (may he rest in peace) gave me when I was a kid. He warned, “You can never un-ring a bell.”
Mr. Peyrouton is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Hackensack, Bergen County, NJ.