Miranda Rights: What Happens If They’re Not Read?
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed to you.”
You probably already knew that those sentences, taken together, make up the famous “Miranda Warnings” or “Miranda Rights.”
But do you know what happens if those warnings aren’t given? Well, the answer may surprise you.
Here’s the scenario:
The holidays are over. You and your wife are going through the overwhelming pile of gifts that you received. You’re Aunt got you a nice set of wine glasses. You’re cousin bought you a new rug. Everybody really stepped up to the plate this year……except for your brother.
Your brother is an internet millionaire with enough money to buy his own island. But for the 4th year in a row, all he got you was a pair of $5 socks. And ugly socks at that.
You tell your wife that you’ve had enough. “This will be the last year my ‘generous’ brother buys me socks,” you say. “I’ll show him.”
You call your brother up and invite him over for a drink. When he gets to your house you greet him holding one of the socks he’d given you. But little did he know that only minutes before his arrival you filled that sock with about 20 glass marbles.
“What are you going to do with that sock” your brother asks. “I’ll show you,” you reply. You swing the marble-filled sock as hard as you can striking your brother in the head. “VICTORY” you shout.
Unfortunately for you, your neighbor was watching from outside and he calls the police. When they arrive, they place you under arrest and take you “down town.”
They place you in the interrogation room and ask you a very simple question, “did you do it?” “We know you did, you might as well confess,” they say. With tears in your eyes, you confess.
As they’re placing you back in the holding cell you have a thought, “hey, they never read me my Miranda Rights….I guess this case is getting thrown out!!!” Or is it……
Thus the question is: What happens if police don’t give the Miranda Warnings?
Before we get into answering that question, lets start with some brief history.
The Miranda Warnings are an extension of the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination. They were developed in a case called Miranda v. Arizona. That’s a U.S. Supreme Court case from 1966.
Now, because of that case, a person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed of his/her Miranda Rights.
They don’t have to be read verbatim, but they must be read. In fact, they have to be read even if the person being arrested already knows them.
So what happens if police fail to “read you your rights?”
If police fail to read you your Miranda Rights, any evidence obtained as a result of that violation will be inadmissible at trial (generally).
It does not mean that the case will get dismissed. In other words, if the DA has other legally obtained evidence of your guilt, then your case will likely proceed.
So, with that in mind, lets take a look at the fact pattern above.
In this scenario your confession would likely not be admissible in trial. You were in custody and you were being interrogated. Because the police failed to read you your rights, your confession is inadmissible.
However, the case will likely move forward. That’s because the DA would have access to other legally available evidence. The neighbor’s eye-witness testimony would probably be enough by itself. Not to mention the marble-filled sock.
It should be noted that the Miranda Warnings really only apply to confessions or “testimonial evidence.” A violation of Miranda will generally not prevent “non-testimonial evidence” from being admitted in trial (UNLESS the violation was purposeful by police).
So there you have it. Now you know what happens when police fail to read the Miranda Warnings. Be sure and point that out the next time you watch Law and Order!!
Good Legal Health.
The Juris Doctor