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The Cops Never Read Me My Miranda Rights

One of the most frequent questions we get from clients is “the cops never read me my Miranda rights.[1] Does that matter?” If you were in custody and were interrogated, then yes, it does matter.

The crux of the analysis lies in applying the definitions of in custody and interrogation to your situation.

Courts have identified the following factors to show someone may be in custody: police interviewing a suspect at a police station; the presence of multiple police officers; telling someone they are the prime suspect; restraining the person’s freedom; and pointing a gun at someone.

Likewise, courts identified the following factors as someone not in custody: questioning at a person’s home; a suspect’s ability to leave at any time; a nonthreatening environment; police informing someone they are not under arrest; and the brevity of questioning.

Generally, not one of the above factors alone will be determinative. But rather, courts will use a totality of the circumstances approach to determine whether someone is in custody. The next part of the analysis is whether a person is being interrogated.

A suspect may make a voluntary statement to the police or confess to a crime without any questioning at all. These statements may be admitted into evidence without a Miranda warning taking place, because no interrogation took place. But even if the police do not ask any specific questions, they may still not be coercive in their actions or words. The seminal case in defining interrogation under Miranda was Rhode Island v. Innis, which stated “the term ‘interrogation’ under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect.”

In Minnesota, the standard for when a Miranda warning is required was set by State v. Thompson, which stated “an interrogation is custodial if, based on all the surrounding circumstances, ‘a reasonable person under the circumstances would believe that he or she was in police custody of the degree associated with formal arrest.’”

Many arrests take place without Miranda ever being read to the accused. For example, in DWI cases, officers are generally only required to read someone their Miranda rights after they decide whether they are going to take an evidentiary test. Further, many traffic stops and offenses never trigger Miranda warnings. Thank Hollywood for the misnomer that officers are required to read Miranda for every arrest. The remedy for a Miranda violation also often does not result in a dismissal, rather the remedy for a Miranda violation is the suppression of statements made after the violation and often evidence obtained because of those statements. So even if you were in custody and were being interrogated, and the cops did not read you your Miranda rights, then the prosecution may still move forward with its case if it has enough other evidence against you.

Robert H. Ambrose is a criminal defense lawyer in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was named a Rising Star by SuperLawyers the past two years; is a Top 40 Under 40 National Trial Lawyer the past three years; and is a member of the National College of DUI Defense. DWI Lawyers St. Paul MN; St. Paul Criminal Defense Lawyers; and St. Paul DUI Attorney.

[1] The familiar Miranda warning is: “that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires.”

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