Maybe you got into a fight with someone and the police were called and you got arrested. Perhaps you were picked up on suspicion of drunk driving. Maybe it was something else. Either way, you kept waiting for the arresting officer to launch into the “Miranda” warning that you’ve heard so many times on TV. You know, the one that starts out, “You have the right to remain silent,” and details what can happen if you don’t, among other things.
It never happened. Does that mean that the officer messed up and the case against you will be tossed out of court? Probably not.
The Miranda warning was developed following a 1966 ruling by the United States Supreme Court in regards to the rights that people in this country enjoy against self-incrimination. The court ruled that the police must, in certain circumstances, inform someone of certain rights they have — just in case they don’t know them or are unclear. This helps keeps the authorities from intimidating a suspect or abusing their power during an investigation.
While media depictions have the police reciting the Miranda warnings at the moment an arrest is made, the reality is quite different. Police are only required to give you the Miranda warning if you:
- Are in police custody (meaning that you are not free to leave, whether that’s because you’re in the back of a squad car or sitting in a room in the station)
- Are about to be interrogated (meaning the police are asking you questions that pertain to your alleged crime)
If the situation that led to your arrest was pretty clear, the police may not have had any particular questions for you — and that may be why you didn’t hear them remind you of your rights.
No matter what the situation, if you’ve been arrested for a crime, an aggressive defense may be in your best interests. Make sure that you talk your case over with an experienced defender (and nobody else).