When Must The Police Read Me My Miranda Rights?

By: LawInfo

The Miranda warning is usually given when a person is arrested. However, the Miranda Rights attach during any “custodial interrogation” (when a person is substantially deprived of their freedom and not free to leave) even if the suspect hasn't been formally arrested.  However, the police do not have to advise you of your Miranda rights before asking any question.  If a person is not in police custody, no Miranda warning is required and anything the person says can be used at trial if the person is later charged with a crime. This exception most often comes up when the police stop someone on the street to question him or her about a recent crime or the person blurts out a confession before the police have an opportunity to deliver the warning. If a person believes that he or she is a potential suspect in a crime, then it may be wise to politely decline to answer questions, at least until after consulting an attorney.

What Are The Miranda Rights?

Also known as the Miranda Rule or the Miranda Warning, when you are arrested in the U.S.A, police officers must warn you that you have the right to remain silent, that any thing you say could be used against you in a court of law, that you have the right to contact a lawyer and that if you cannot afford a lawyer, that one will be provided before any questioning if so desired. Failure to issue the Miranda warning renders evidence so obtained to not be admissible in the court. The warning became a national police requirement when ordered by the US Supreme Court in the 1966 case Miranda v. Arizona and that is how it got the name.

What Do My Miranda Rights Protect Against During A Police Investigation?

In addition to advising you of your Miranda rights upon arrest, the arresting authorities must respect your Miranda rights throughout an investigation. Once a defendant invokes the right to counsel, all custodial interrogations must cease until defendant's attorney is present. For example, you cannot legally be required or forced by a law enforcement officer or anyone else to talk, answer questions, or sign any papers without your attorney present.  If you are forced to give incriminating information due to threats, persistent questioning or other means of coercion, you can prevent its use against you in court.  However, if the officer simply neglects to inform you of your Miranda rights, but does not otherwise engage in threats, persistent questioning or other means of coercion, whatever information you volunteer to the police could still potentially be used against you in court. 

Do The Police Have To Wait Until I Have An Attorney Present Before They Question Me?

No. It is legal for the police to question you without the presence of an attorney or warning you of your Miranda rights (notifying you of your rights to silence and to have an attorney present during questioning) so long as the questioning is merely investigatory and you believe that you are free to go and you have not been formally charged.  Even if you are arrested, there is no requirement that you have an attorney present before answering police questions.  A suspect is free to waive his or her Miranda rights and voluntarily speak to the police without an attorney present.  However, once you ask for an attorney, the police, under the 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution are prohibited from asking you any additional questions until your attorney is present.

Being Questioned (Non-Custodial Interrogation) vs. Being Interrogated (Custodial Interrogation)

If you feel you are free to go, you are present of your own free will and you have not been charged, you are probably being questioned in a non-custodial environment. 

On the other hand, if you have been arrested, or if you have been detained and do not feel you are free to leave, or you have been given your Miranda rights, you are likely considered to be legally in police custody and therefore being interrogated. 

Any statements you make during a custodial interrogation can be used against you as long as the police have read you your Miranda rights and you have waived the right to keep silent or have an attorney present.  However, statements you make in response to non-custodial police questioning can still be used against you if the Miranda warning hasn't been given because Miranda rights only attach to custodial interrogations.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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