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Do police really have to read you your rights?

Did you know that you can be arrested, handcuffed, put in jail, brought to trial, convicted and sentenced to prison time without the police ever reading you your rights?

 

The police have to read you the Miranda warnings in order to question you and then use your answers against you.  If they do not need a statement from you, they can simply arrest you.  The Constitution states that the police cannot force you to incriminate yourself.  If they do, the statements are “fruit of the poisonous tree.”  These statements cannot be used against you.  However, this does not mean that the case is over.  You still be convicted with other evidence.   A  judge may strikethe statement and let the case proceed with the remaining evidence.  If it is enough to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, then the conviction will stand.

A custodial interrogation occurs when a law enforcement officer  interrogates you in a setting where a reasonable person would not feel free to leave.  An obvious example would be if you were put in a police car and not allowed to leave until you talked.   This is the type of practice that the Miranda case was decided to put a stop to

The Supreme Court decided that the police must prove that the answers to questions were voluntary before they could be used.  That is where the familiar Miranda warnings came from:  “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can 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.”  When these warnings are read, anything that the accused says afterwards is presumed to be valid.  There is still a chance that your attorney can get the statement kicked out of the case, but it will take a court hearing to do so.

If the police do not read your rights, they can still use your words against you under certain other circumstances.  For example, if you volunteer a statement, it is fair game.  A statement made while detained, but not yet formally arrested, may also be used.  These are difficult and nuanced legal areas,  even for experienced criminal defense attorneys.  If a defense attorney decides that the statement is fruit of the poisonous tree, then he must file a motion to suppress the statement.  This motion will be heard in court.  The prosecution will have to prove that the statement was taken legally to use it in court.  A workable understanding of Miranda issues can take many years of study and many suppression hearings to obtain.  Therefore, never assume that a case will do away when police do not read Miranda warnings.  Without the careful work of a skilled attorney, the fruit of the poisonous tree may remain in the case.