Mindy and Max had a troubled marriage where shouting and slamming doors were common occurrences. One night the police responded to a neighbor’s phone call reporting suspected domestic violence. Officers separated the two squabbling parties, keeping Mindy in the kitchen and Max in the living room. After 15 minutes, the officers placed Max in handcuffs, took him outside to a patrol car, put him in the rear of the cruiser, and locked the doors.
One officer turned to Max and said, “Your wife told us you hit her. Want to tell us your side of the story?”
Miranda rights and police questioning
The normal human impulse at that point is to explain that you’ve never hit your wife and you don’t know why you’re under arrest. Don’t give in to that impulse.
You are in custody. You are handcuffed and in the back of a police car. You are not free to leave. These facts trigger a number of your constitutional rights:
- The right to say nothing in response to police questioning.
- The right to get advice from an attorney before you even speak to a police officer.
- The right to be represented by counsel and have him or her present during questioning police questioning.
- The right to have a court-appointed attorney represent you without charge if you do not have money to pay for legal representation.
These are known as Miranda rights, named for the U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled police officers must state them to citizens in custody on suspicion of committing a crime. The most recent Supreme Court case on Miranda rights makes it clear that if arrested, you must invoke your Miranda rights — simply remaining silent in the face of questioning does not invoke your right to remain silent. According to another Supreme Court case about Miranda rights arising out of a Florida arrest, the warnings need not adhere to a particular phraseology so long as they convey the essential message that the person arrested has these enumerated constitutional rights.
The two prerequisites for Miranda warnings are (1) that you are in custody and (2) that the police are questioning you. If you volunteer information without questioning or if police question you while you are not in custody, the police don’t have to read you your Miranda rights.
You have a constitutional right to remain silent, to consult with your attorney before answering police questions, and to have your attorney present while being questioned. Use those rights. Contact an aggressive criminal defender who zealously guards your constitutional rights in Sarasota.