Anyone who has ever been arrested, seen someone arrested, or watched a television show or movie in which someone is arrested has heard of the Miranda Rights. Unfortunately, far too many people think that they know all there is to know on the subject and never consider what they might not know. Did you know that the police don’t have to read you your Miranda Rights before questioning you, unless you are under arrest? Did you know that waiving your rights in exchange for leniency can end up harming you more than helping you? These are the issues that we want to address to make sure that you know what to do if you are ever arrested or even questioned by the police while not technically in custody.
Miranda Rights Do Not Apply and Do Not Have to Be Read if You Are Not in Custody
One of the biggest mistakes you make when being questioned by the police is to assume that nothing you say can be used against you because they haven’t read your Miranda Rights. This is also one of the best ways for the police to get you to say something incriminating. They know that there is a common misconception about the Miranda Rights being relevant when a person is not actually in custody. For this reason, they may ask to question you, and may even give the impression that you’re in trouble, but will not actually arrest you, first. Thus, you are put in a vulnerable position, perhaps without realizing it, and you may say something that leads to an arrest that could have been avoided if you had understood how the system works.
Be Aware of the Indications that You Are or Are Not In Custody
From here, you might assume that you’ll know whether or not you are in custody because you’re rights will be read if you are, you might be handcuffed, and you’ll be taken to the police station without being given a choice in the matter. These are certainly clear indications that you are in custody. What is less clear is the indications that you are not in custody. When a police officer asks you to do something, you generally feel that you have to do it. For example, if they ask you to step out of your vehicle at a traffic stop, you will do so. Yet, you are not in custody at this time, so do not say anything with the assumption that you are protected by the unread Miranda Rights. As another example, when the police knock on your door, you may think that you have to answer the door for them. You don’t actually have to do this if they do not have an arrest warrant for an occupant of the home or a search warrant for the home itself.
Then, there are the cases where you are actually in custody, but don’t even realize that this is the case. In these circumstances, it will ultimately fall to a judge to decide whether or not you were actually in custody and whether your Miranda Rights should have been read to you. You’ll want to have the benefit of a South Carolina criminal defense attorney on your side if you have to take such a matter in front of a judge. Some points that can be argued include:
- Were you taken to the police station involuntarily?
- Were you placed in a locked room for questioning?
- Were you subjected to interrogation tactics?
- Were you free to leave at any time?
- Were you subject to a lengthy period of questioning or interrogation?
All of these points are extremely important because they are the difference between whether or not your statements can or cannot be used in court. As long as you were not technically in custody, based on being arrested or based on being held against your will in a locked room, your Miranda Rights are not applicable to the situation, and anything you say can be used. Yet, if you are found to have been in custody, based on the same questions, and if the police did not read your Miranda Rights, then, and only then, can your statements be thrown out as evidence.
There is a Difference Between Police Questioning and Interrogation
Not all police questioning qualifies as an interrogation. One of the questions that we mentioned above, concerning whether or not you were in custody, is based on whether or not you were subjected to interrogation tactics. If you are being interrogated, then you can be presumed to have been in custody. If you are simply being questioned, then you can walk away, freely, should not be in a locked room, and should not be denied breaks. Further, if you are being questioned, you should not be made to feel that you are already in trouble, that the police know you are guilty of something, that they don’t believe what you’re saying to them, or that you should bargain for leniency by providing information. Ultimately, if the behavior of the police seems to be focused on getting you to confess to a crime, then you are being interrogated, not questioned, and this can make all the difference in whether or not your Miranda Rights apply.
Incriminating Statements Made While Not In Custody or After Waiving Your Rights
If you make incriminating statements while you are not in custody, then these statements can lead to your arrest and can also be used against you as evidence of guilt in a court of law. If you make incriminating statements while you are in custody and after your Miranda Rights have been read to you, then you have essentially waived your rights. It is in your best interests to avoid making these mistakes when you are suspected of a crime.
You can avoid such mistakes by asking the police whether or not you are free to go, and leaving if they say that you are. If you are not free to go, then you are in custody, and your rights should be read to you. Even so, you should not make incriminating statements based on the belief that they can’t be held against you. You may be right, or you may be wrong. It’s best to say nothing, and seek the counsel of a South Carolina criminal defense attorney.
If it is too late to take this advice, and you’ve already said something that can be used against you, then it is still in your best interests (perhaps even more so) to contact the David Aylor Law Offices to discuss your case with a skilled criminal defense lawyer in Charleston, SC. We may be able to get your statements thrown out as evidence, or we may be able to find another way to successfully defend you against the given charges or to get those charges reduced.