One of the most misunderstood legal concept for the lay person is the Miranda requirements. Many times, clients will tell me that the police did not read them their Miranda rights. They want to know if that is a basis to have the case against them dismissed.
First, Miranda warnings only apply to custodial interrogation. To very briefly summarize what “custodial interrogation means”, I would explain it like this:
Questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person is taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his or her freedom in any significant way, thus requiring that the person be advised of his or her applicable constitutional rights.
The above may seem straight forward to most. When the police stop you, either in your vehicle, or otherwise, you never really feel as if you are free to go. And as the police ask you those initial questions, you would think that you are entitled to know your rights under the fifth and sixth amendments, particularly the right to remain silent (self incrimination), and the right to have an attorney present for questioning. However, under most circumstances, a police officer’s initial investigation will not be considered custodial interrogation. Meaning, you are not “in custody” for the purposes of Miranda. But this will always be a fact sensitive determination. Meaning, when the police asked you those questions, had something more than an investigatory encounter taken place.
Secondly, if you are “in custody” the police should advise you of your Miranda warnings. A clear custodial situation is being placed under arrest. But remember, Miranda only applies to custody and interrogation. So theoretically, if the police never asked you any questions while you were in custody, then the Miranda requirement would not be triggered.
What should be clear is that there are very few bright-line rules when it comes to the concept of “custody” and “interrogation.” If the police have stopped you and asked questions, there is always the possibility that anything you may have said could be suppressed as a result of a Miranda issue. These are fact sensitive issues to say the least, and the issues go far beyond these initial considerations.
As an New Jersey criminal defense lawyer, I frequently file motions to suppress evidence and statements made by defendants based upon Miranda violations. The attorney’s role is to find a way to use the facts of your case to bring it into the “zone of protection” of Miranda. Arguments based on Miranda rights violations are conceptually difficult and it requires a skilled advocate to elicit the proper testimony from a police office on the stand.
For a some more information on custodial interrogation, you can check out some Federal Jurisprudence on the subject.
Please call if you have any questions.