Miranda Rights and When They’re Required

Many people want to know when Miranda Rights are required to be read. There is often a misconception that simply because the police failed to read your Miranda Rights at the scene when you were arrested, that it somehow invalidates the arrest or makes it illegal? It doesn’t. Let it be clear that the reading of Miranda rights is relevant only in the context of custodial interrogations or consent requests when a person is in custody.

Miranda rights are grounded in the Fifth Amendments privilege against self-incrimination, the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of due process. As stated in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1612, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966): “Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has the right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has the right to an attorney, either retained or appointed.”. Miranda Rights are meant to protect against coerced confessions and the infringement upon a person’s Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights. To challenge a false arrest on Fourth Amendment grounds, of unreasonable searches and seizures, you must show that there was no probable cause to arrest. The failure to read Miranda Rights is only an issue if there were a confession or a statement that was used as evidence against you. Testimonial evidence and resulting physical evidence may possibly be suppressed as “Fruit of the poisonous tree” if your Miranda rights were required to be read, but weren’t. Or if they were read, but not honored after you invoked them. See State v. Bey 112 N.J. 45 (1988). The question then is: “When are Miranda rights required to be read?”

Looking to the case of Florida v. Royer, 103 S.Ct 1319, 460 U.S. 491 (1983), “when police proceed in a matter that would leave the average person with the belief that he is not free to depart, their investigative stop matures in to an arrest, triggering the necessity for the Miranda warnings before any further interrogations or consent request should proceed.” See also U.S. v. Verrusio 742 F.2.d 1077 (1984). Furthermore, in New Jersey, police must give fresh Miranda Warnings before making additional attempts to interrogate a suspect. See State v. Hartley, 103 N.J. 252 (1986) State v. Harvey, 121 N.J. 407, 420 (1990), State v. Shelton, 344 N.J. Super. 505, 516 (App. Div. 2001), certif. den. 171 N.J. 43 (2002).

Surely, when a person is placed in custody it does trigger the necessity for Miranda warnings to be given. However, even if the police fail to give your Miranda warning at the scene of the arrest, provided they read them before any interrogation questioning, the testimonial evidence may still be admissible. For instance, police might wait until the official interrogation at the police station to officially read your Miranda Rights for the record. Provided you didn’t make a statement prior to having your Miranda Rights read, it’s not an issue. However, if you made a statement prior to being placed in custody, such as during a field inquiry, then you are not protected by the Miranda requirement and testimonial evidence is admissible. Miranda Rights are only required when a person is placed in custody, meaning an official arrest or a situation where an average person would believe he is not free to leave. Or when an officer makes further attempts to re-interrogate you after you have previously invoked your Miranda Rights.

Regardless, in custody v. not in custody is a fact sensitive determination. Accordingly, it is wise to ask a lawyer about this distinction in a case where a statement to the police was made.

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