Houston Criminal Defense Blog

Know Your (Miranda) Rights during Arrest and Interrogation

miranda warning

If you think you know something about police procedures from watching your favorite television series or by going to the movies, you would be shocked at the number of arrests made in real life without the suspect being read his or her Miranda rights. It has been almost 50 years since the United States Supreme Court ruled that police must inform a suspect of his right to remain silent and right to be represented by an attorney, but there remains a great deal of misinformation about the landmark case of Miranda vs. Arizona.

The Basics of Miranda Warnings

Ernesto Miranda was taken into custody by the police and questioned for two hours before making a statement that prosecutors used to convict him of a crime. The issue before the Supreme Court in 1966 was whether police should be forced to inform a suspect of his right to remain silent and of his right to consult and be represented by an attorney.

Surprisingly, the state did not contest Mr. Miranda’s right to remain silent or to consult with an attorney during questioning. The government position was that police did not have a duty to advise a suspect of the rights he or she had under the Constitution.

The Supreme Court disagreed and created the rule that still exists today. Statements made in response to questioning by police may not be used at trial against the person making those statements if the individual was in police custody.

According to the Court, police must inform an individual of the following:

  • The person has the right to remain silent;
  • Anything said to police can and will be used against the suspect at trial;
  • The suspect has the right to be represented by an attorney before any questioning by the police; and
  • If the suspect cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for him or her.

Custody and Interrogation in Texas

Police encounters with people occur all the time without an arrest being made. Just because police engage in a conversation with an individual suspected of criminal activity under the law, does not require police to read the person the Miranda warnings.

This changes, however, if the individual believes that his or her ability to move about freely is restricted. Obviously, putting handcuffs on someone and placing them in the backseat of a patrol car leaves little doubt that the individual is not free to move about.

Even a person who is in the custody of police might not be entitled to the Miranda warnings if the incriminating statement he or she makes is not in response to questioning or interrogation by police officers. For example, if a person is in handcuffs in the backseat of a police car and suddenly says, “I’m sorry that I committed the robbery,” the statement may be used at trial to prove guilt.

As a generally rule, an absence of Miranda warnings will not protect you from incriminating statements that you make spontaneously without being induced to do so by police. Also, the questions police ask must be designed to elicit incriminating statements or information for courts to throw out the statement as violating Miranda.

For example, police are permitted to ask routine questions to elicit information needed to process someone arrested and charged with violating Texas criminal laws without running into a problem with Miranda. Such information would include the following:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Height, weight, and hair and eye color

This information is considered to be part of the administrative booking process. The courts have ruled that questioning related to this process is exempt from the requirements established by Miranda vs. Arizona.

How Do Texas Courts Handle Miranda Violations?

Criminal courts will not allow prosecutors to use an incriminating statement to prove the guilt of a defendant if it was the result of police questioning while the person was in custody. This does not, necessarily, mean that the charges against the defendant will be dismissed.
Prosecutors may proceed with the case by using evidence other than the statement to prove guilt, but this might not be possible in some situations. Evidence gathered by police as a result of an unlawfully obtained statement may also be inadmissible at trial. For instance, a weapon used in the commission of a crime might not be allowed as evidence if police found out about it through an illegally obtained statement.

Exercising Your Right To Remain Silent and Speak To A Lawyer

Police investigators are trained in the use of various methods obtain a confession from a person suspected of committing a crime. Exercising your right to remain silent and demanding an opportunity to speak to an attorney is not an admission of wrongdoing. It is simply taking full advantage of the rights the Constitution has given to you.

Miranda is a complex area of the law that you should discuss with an attorney before allowing yourself to be questioned by the police. A Houston criminal defense attorney can explain the rules against self-incrimination and how they apply in your particular situation before you talk to the police.

If you’ve been accused of a crime in Houston or the surrounding areas, contact the Law Offices of Billy Skinner. We will fight hard to protect your rights and preserve your freedom.

Photo Dennis Crowley
| Used under Creative Commons image attribution license 2.0

Categories: Criminal Defense