Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why didn't the police officer "Mirandize" me?

Many people (even me once upon a time...) have the misconception that the police must read you your rights when they arrest you.  That's not necessarily true.  Many clients tell me when they first meet with me that "Officer so-and-so didn't read me my rights when he arrested me."  My response to that person is "did he ask you any questions after arresting you?"  

Miranda warnings... you know, the warnings they always give the "bad guy" at the end of one of those cop shows where they make the arrest?  It goes something like this: "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 provided to you.  Do you understand these rights as I've given them to you?"

So, what is the purpose of Miranda and when does a police officer have to give me those warnings?  Well, first you must be in custody.  Custody is defined loosely as a situation where your freedom of movement is constrained but not to the degree of a formal arrest.  Sounds like some lawyer double talk doesn't it?  We all know what an arrest looks like.  You're in cuffs in the back of a squad car being brought back to the PD for booking.   However, do you know what a custodial situation looks like?  Those are the tough calls and are open to dispute... usually in front of a judge where your attorney is trying to suppress evidence gained in violation of your constitutional rights.

Speaking of constitutional rights, that is what Miranda was meant to protect... your constitutional right to be free from an unlawful interrogation.  In other words, if the police are going to question you about the circumstances for which you have either been arrested for or are currently under suspicion for and being questioned, they must warn you about your right to remain silent.  Remember the phrase "you have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you."  That means DO NOT SAY ANYTHING!!!  Let me repeat that in case you missed it... DO NOT TALK TO THE POLICE!!!!  PERIOD.  If you have been arrested for a crime... are taking the roadside olympics during an OUI investigation or the police just want you to "shed some light on a situation so we can clear you of any suspicion", just remember these words... DO NOT SAY ANYTHING TO THE POLICE.  They can and will use whatever you say against you later.  Don't do the police officer's job for him.  Let him make his case against you without your help.

William T. Bly, Esq.
Maine OUI Lawyer