Most people think they know their rights – at least when it comes to those mentioned in the Miranda Warning. After all, every legal drama on television makes a big show of officers slapping on the cuffs and saying, “You have the right to remain silent…” at the same time.
The reality is a bit more complicated. You may have some misunderstandings about Miranda Warnings that could leave you in a precarious legal position if you’re ever arrested.
You have to be in custody and under interrogation
A lot of people get very confused after their arrest when an officer doesn’t immediately remind them of their rights via the Miranda Warning – but that’s usually because there’s no need.
If you’re caught in the act of driving under the influence (DUI) and you blew a 0.16 on a Breathalyzer, the authorities probably already have the evidence they need to convict you. Plus, you may have said quite a bit that’s self-incriminating (like admitting that you were coming from a bar where you had a couple of drinks) before the officer ever made their arrest.
With rare exceptions, Miranda Warnings are only required when two things are true:
- Someone is in custody (not merely detained, but under arrest)
- They’re being subjected to interrogation and questions by the authorities
Police officers can still, without regard to Miranda, ask you questions that aren’t related to their investigation, such as questions related to your identity. In addition, they can use their ears to listen to whatever you decide to volunteer after your arrest – and people get nervous and volunteer far too much as they try to relieve their anxiety in the silence. If those “spontaneous utterances” happen to be incriminating, they can and will pass the information directly to the prosecutor. They can also skip the Miranda Warning during exigent circumstances when there’s a public safety issue involved (like asking a suspect where they planted a bomb).
Don’t let misunderstandings about the way that Miranda Warnings work damage your future. If you’re arrested for a DUI or anything else, don’t wait until you’ve been reminded to exercise your rights.