Virtually every person who calls LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. because they were arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense, believes that if they were not “read their rights,” they can the charges have to be dismissed. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding of the law was created by television and movies and it does not accurately reflect the state of law in the United States or Michigan.
Basically, the truth is that if the police fail to read a suspect, who is in custody, his or her Miranda rights, the prosecutor can’t use that person’s answers to police questioning (AKA interrogation) as evidence against the suspect at trial.
What Are Your Miranda Rights?
Popularly known as the Miranda warning (ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona), a defendant’s rights consist of the familiar litany invoked by TV police immediately upon arresting a suspect:
• You have the right to remain silent.
• If you do say anything, what you say can be used against you in a court of law.
• You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during any questioning.
• If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you so desire.
• If you choose to talk to the police officer, you have the right to stop the interview at any time.
When the Miranda Warning Is Required
If a person is in custody, the police must read them their Miranda rights if they want to question the suspect if they want to use the suspect’s answers as evidence at trial. Custody doesn’t necessarily mean in jail. Custody means when a person’s liberty is substantially impaired.
If a person is not in police custody, however, no Miranda warning is required and anything the person says can be used at trial if the person is later charged with a crime. This is true even if the person is answers the questions of the police.
Responding to Questions Before an Arrest
A police officer generally cannot arrest a person simply for failure to respond to questions. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the “right of silence.” This means that unless a police officer has “probable cause” to make an arrest or a “reasonable suspicion” to conduct a “stop and frisk,” a person approached by the police officer has the legal right to refuse to answer questions. Indeed, a person who has reason to believe that he or she is a potential suspect should politely decline to answer questions, at least until after consulting an attorney. The best possible thing to say is, “I respectfully decline to answer your questions. I invoke my right to remain silent. I am requesting an attorney.”
The right to remain silent does not protect a person who gives a false name or other false information to the police. You can remain silent but lying to the police is a crime in Michigan.
Never speak to the police or answer questions after an arrest. Period.
Suspects all too frequently unwittingly reveal information that can later be used as evidence of their guilt. People frequently try to justify their cooperation with police questioning by saying they had done nothing wrong or that they thought it would look suspicious if they remained silent. This being said, more than half of the criminal cases charged in Michigan would disappear if people kept their mouths shut.
We all know that people often hear what they want to hear. Police are no different and frequently misinterpret (or twist) an innocent statement into an inculpatory statement. Even when an inculpatory statement is not made, police often look more minor inconsistencies or minor errors in facts which are later used to show that a person was “dishonest.” Worse yet, when everything else fails, police will say that a person was nervous when answering questions and appeared to be dishonest or evasive. The bottom line is that talking with the police ALWAYS works out very badly for the suspect.
Consequences of Failure to Provide Miranda Warning
Without a Miranda warning, nothing a person says in response to a custodial questioning can be used as evidence against the person at his or her trial. Any answers to custodial interrogation, without Miranda, are subject to suppression. In addition, under the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine, if the police find evidence as a result of an interrogation that violates the Miranda rule, that evidence may also inadmissible at trial.
Criminal Defense Lawyers – Constitutional Attorneys
If you are suspected by law enforcement of committing a felony or misdemeanor offense, if a warrant has been issued for your arrest or if you have been charged with a crime, please call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation. We are not afraid to win and we will find a way to help you.