When do Miranda Rights need to be read?
August 29, 2012 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Are there any time that the police don't have to read you Miranda rights, when you are arrested?

I was always under the impression that Miranda rights only had to be read before the police interrogated you, not when you are just initially arrested for something.

Specific question. I was arrested a few years ago. I was doing something illegal (misdemeanor) in public, and when the police tried to ask me to show ID I ran from them. They obviously caught me, and arrested me for trying to avoid arrest. That is all well and done with, I've paid the fines etc.

But they never read me my rights. Whenever I tell this story, people tell me I should've fought the case because of this. But since I was never actually questioned, I'm pretty sure I didn't need to be read rights. The internet answers I find on this say things like "is a warning given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody", which I feel like I was, but then again, I'm not a lawyer.

Also, I could've just forgotten they were read to me because I was so scared.

Can anyone clarify if there are situations where you don't need to be read your rights?
posted by trogdole to Law & Government (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking in general terms, the police need to advise you of your rights before they question you if they want to be able to use that questioning against you as part of a criminal proceeding.

The fact that you were not advised of your rights at arrest has no bearing on the validity of the arrest.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:24 AM on August 29, 2012

They should always read you your rights. But the Miranda warning is just that, a warning. If you didn't actually say anything before they warned you that they used against you in court, it really doesn't matter.
posted by ubiquity at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2012

The police witnessed you doing something. They didn't need to use anything you said as testimony.

Were you interrogated? If so, Miranda applies. If not, then it doesn't matter.
posted by inturnaround at 10:29 AM on August 29, 2012

Respectfully, the above answers are wrong. Miranda warnings only apply to custodial interactions with law enforcement.

When you are in custody (which means--roughly--that you are not free to leave), you must be informed of specific constitutional rights (the Miranda warnings). You need not be informed in of these rights in any specific language, but you must acknowledge that you have understood them. Otherwise, certain things which flow from the custodial interrogation represent violations of your rights and the only remedy is suppression of those things (generally statements you make, but not always).

The key part of this is "when you are in custody". There is no bright line that determines you are now in custody and many Americans would be surprised to learn what judges often rule does not constitute custody for purposes of the police having been required to read you your rights.

I had one 17 year old client, who spent 56 hours in a part of a police station where she had to be escorted through hallways (who got her period while sleeping on chair in the non-interrogation interview room and had to yell for a male cop to take to the bathroom) who was nonetheless found not to be in custody (by the trial judge--the issue never went to appeal) because the police would have escorted her out the front door if she had asked. And no, there was no requirement that she be told that.

I have had appellate clients found not to be in custody for purposes of Miranda warnings, who stayed in a police station just shy of 72 hours under similar physical restrictions. It's bullshit, frankly.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:29 AM on August 29, 2012 [14 favorites]

crush-onastick is right. Miranda only applies to a situation where someone is undergoing custodial interrogation -- i.e. being questioned ("interrogation") while their freedom is restrained ("custodial"). If you want to read up on this, try Googling the key phrase, "custodial interrogation." I can't comment on how this general concept would apply to the specifics of your case (especially without knowing what state you were in or what that state's constitution might have to say about it).
posted by John Cohen at 10:31 AM on August 29, 2012

Can anyone clarify if there are situations where you don't need to be read your rights?

Miranda warnings are for when you're actually in police custody.

But you don't have to be in custody for a police officer to ask you questions.

A lot of people hold this misunderstanding. Whatever a plain-jane citizen can do, a police officer can do, too, and it will hold the same weight as any other witness. While there are plenty of rules regarding acting under the color of law, just because he has a badge doesn't mean a police officer magically stops being a human being.

For example, I can ask you, "Why are you doing X?" And so can a cop. And your answer to me ("When I asked him why he was doing X, John said...") could be used as evidence, just as your answer to a cop could.

Another example ... imagine you have a shit-ton of drugs sitting on your coffee table. There's nothing stopping a police officer from knocking on your door and asking to be let in and simply seeing the drugs, just like there's nothing stopping me from doing the same. Demanding to be let in for the purpose of a specific search requires a warrant.

This is how my buddy the federal agent did 80 percent of his job when he was in the field. He walked up to houses and knocked on the door. "Are you John? Do you know where John is? Can I come in and look around?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:37 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am an attorney, but I am not your attorney. This is not legal advice. If you are arrested you should consult a competent attorney in your jurisdiction as soon as possible. Don't talk to cops.

The case law surrounding Miranda is complicated, but here is a (very) basic and admittedly incomplete summary.

In general, Miranda only applies to what is known as 'custodial interrogation.' As the Miranda case itself explains, the rules apply "when the individual is first subjected to police interrogation while in custody at the station or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way," and not to "[g]eneral on-the-scene questioning as to facts surrounding a crime or other general questioning of citizens in the fact-finding process" or to "[v]olunteered statements of any kind." The precise definition of custodial interrogation (and certainly the question of whether it applied in your case) is far beyond the scope of this forum.

The consequence of failing to give the Miranda warning is that statements obtained in violation of the rules may not be admitted into evidence. This also comes along with a host of potential exceptions and caveats. For example a person may make a statement, then be given the Miranda warning, then make the same statement. Is that second statement admissible? The answer is highly fact dependent.

The bottom line is that the Miranda warning does not technically have to be given, and if the prosecution can prove its case without any statements obtained in violation of the Miranda rules, then a defendant may be convicted despite not being given the warning. And if you think about it, a smart defendant won't say anything to the police anyway (except to invoke their right to an attorney).
posted by jedicus at 10:42 AM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Asking for identification is NOT an example of interrogation. Even during a routine stop, like a sobriety check point, police have the right to demand identification. Since, you were not being interrogated, Miranda does not apply.
posted by Flood at 10:53 AM on August 29, 2012

jedicus has the right of it. But one further point of clarification:

Receiving the Miranda warning is not, in and of itself, a civil right. It is a judicially-created procedure to ensure that several things which are civil rights are adequately observed. Specifically, the right to remain silent, and the right to an attorney. Put more technically, the Miranda warning is not black letter law, but the right against self-incrimination and the right to counsel are.

If the police engage in a custodial interrogation without reading you your Miranda rights, the reason the evidence might not be admissible is not because "They didn't read me my rights!" at least not as such. You do not have a constitutional right to have certain words recited to you. Rather, it's because the court is assuming that the police interfered with your rights against self-incrimination and denied you access to counsel. You do have the right to those things.

So there are several circumstances in which the police might be able to use evidence they obtain from a defendant without reading the Miranda warning. One is if the person isn't technically in custody, like the examples above. But the other is if they aren't being interrogated. If the cops pile a suspect into the back of their cruiser and just start driving downtown, and the suspect starts talking without the cops even saying a word,* that's probably going to be admissible. No interrogation, no violation of civil rights.

But if the suspect demonstrates that he is fully aware of the scope of his rights and waives them, the Miranda warnings may not be necessary either. Say the suspect is a criminal defense attorney. Say he gets arrested for whatever, and before the cops have a chance to say anything, he says "Look, I know my rights. I don't want a lawyer, I just want to talk about what happened." The cops will have a good case that the purpose of the Miranda warnings, i.e., to ensure that suspects are fully aware of their rights, has been accomplished. The guy does know what his rights are, so whether or not he's warned about them isn't as big of a deal as it would be with a semi-literate suspect.

*The courts are pretty smart about the cops tricking information out of suspects without asking any actual questions. But if the cops say absolutely nothing, and the suspect talks anyway, that's likely to be admissible. Fact dependent, obviously, but it very well could be.
posted by valkyryn at 10:57 AM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

There was a case where security guards at a store captured a shoplifter and interrogated him prior to the police showing up. He confessed to the guards.

His lawyer tried to get the confession discarded, but the court ruled it to be valid evidence, which led to his conviction.

The reason was that the guards were not police. They were holding him under citizen's arrest, and interrogated him as citizens. They were not operating as an arm of the state. Thus there was no obligation to read him the Miranda warning or to make any other kind of warning.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:52 AM on August 29, 2012

But you don't have to be in custody for a police officer to ask you questions.

You may not even need to be In Custody to be cited and released, which some areas call a "summary criminal violation" or something like it. Drunk in public could be something like that; you might be given the option to have what looks like a traffic ticket written out and sign and be immediately free to go on your way, with a promise to appear for court.

In such a case I can imagine that the citation itself might have warning information and signing it might qualify as your miranda reading.
posted by phearlez at 12:23 PM on August 29, 2012

I'm a little surprised at the variety of answers to this question, which is actually very straightforward.

First, to answer your questions:

Are there any time that the police don't have to read you Miranda rights, when you are arrested?

Yes. If they don't interrogate you or engage in behavior that is the equivalent of interrogation, they don't have to read you your Miranda rights. They also don't have to advise you of these rights to ask for your ID or routine booking questions (name, DOB, address, etc.)

Even if they do interrogate you without Miranda, the only penalty is that the statements you make can't be used in the prosecution's case in chief. Unless what was said was the result of coercion (force, threats, promises), your statements can still be used to impeach you if you testify.

I was always under the impression that Miranda rights only had to be read before the police interrogated you, not when you are just initially arrested for something.


Specific question. I was arrested a few years ago. I was doing something illegal (misdemeanor) in public, and when the police tried to ask me to show ID I ran from them. They obviously caught me, and arrested me for trying to avoid arrest. . . . But they never read me my rights.

And they didn't have to. Particularly as it doesn't sound like there was any effort to interrogate you.

IANYL, but here's a short pointer on Miranda rights:

-You have a right not to incriminate yourself, and a right to counsel. If the police have you in custody and they want to question you directly or via their conduct, they are required to advise you of these rights, and that you can exercise them any time. That's the holding of Arizona v. Miranda.
-The police also are prohibited from coercing statements from you via force, threats or promises. "Involuntary" statements which the police get via coercion cannot be used in court at all, even to impeach.
-The duty to advise you of Miranda rights attaches when you are in formal custody or its practical equivalent (e.g. guns are drawn on you), and the police want to interrogate you. It is OK for them to ask about ID and for booking information without Miranda warnings.
-The penalty for violating Miranda requirements is the suppression of any statement you make in the prosecution's case in chief. If the statement was voluntary, though, it can be used to impeach you if you take the stand.

Hope that helps.

Here's something you didn't ask but I think everyone should keep in mind: in all interactions with police, it is wisest to be very courteous but make no statements at all. If you are put in custody, ask for a lawyer immediately.
posted by bearwife at 1:27 PM on August 29, 2012

Gah, how did I miss my big typo? The case is Miranda v. Arizona, not vice versa.
posted by bearwife at 1:29 PM on August 29, 2012

I was going to write a response, but Jedicus said everything I was going to.
posted by Happydaz at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2012

Bearwife, it's probably worth pointing out that the practical implications of the police violating Miranda vary between states. In Oregon, for instance, you can't use the statements for impeachment. Period.
posted by Happydaz at 1:34 PM on August 29, 2012

Good point, Happydaz.
posted by bearwife at 4:47 PM on August 29, 2012

The police can choose to do whatever they want. Legally, it may or may not come back to bite them later, but sometimes they don't give a shit, and the court may not either (I work in appeals).
posted by agregoli at 6:27 AM on August 30, 2012

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