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Understanding Miranda


     Most people, who are not criminal defense attorneys, believe that if the police do not inform them of their Miranda warnings when they are arrested, the case will be dismissed on a technicality.  This is not the case.

          Commonly known as Miranda warnings, these are warnings that many people associate when a person is arrested by the police.  People are quite familiar with numerous television shows where the police arrest a suspect and proceed to inform them of their rights.  The rights are as follows:

1)    You have the right to remain silent;

2)   Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law;

3)   You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have the lawyer present during questioning;

4)   If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed if you so desire;

    Police officers are not required to inform people of their Miranda rights when they question an individual.  Miranda warnings are required in very specific situations.  A person must be in custody of the police. Custody is not necessarily defined as being in jail or handcuffed.  A person can be in custody on a street, in his home, or in a parking lot if the person is deprived of his freedom in a significant way.   The other requirement is that the police are questioning the person.  Without these two requirements, Miranda is not required. 

           If a person is in custody and Miranda warnings were not provided, any statements pursuant to the questioning will be barred from being used at trial.  In addition, any evidence obtained as a result of the inadmissible statement may also be suppressed.  The suppression of that evidence falls under the doctrine of the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”.   

     The most common advice of defense attorneys is to respectfully decline to answer any questions without an attorney present.  Typically, individuals in custody are unsure as to what knowledge the police have and attempt to outsmart the police.  Suspects frequently reveal information that can later be used as evidence of their guilt.  The advice I give all clients is refuse to answer any questions and obtain an attorney.  If the client wishes, he can always answer questions at a later time.

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