Maybe you’ve been arrested for some reason and put into the back of a squad car. Maybe you’ve just been (semi-politely) asked to come into the police station to meet with detectives.
Either way, you keep waiting for the police to give you the Miranda Warning that you’ve learned about in school and seen in television shows and movies, the one that starts with, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”
Time drags on, the officer or detectives are pretty much sitting in silence and you’re getting nervous. You start to think that this is a good time to maybe explain your actions or offer a defense of some sort because it’s all “off the record.” Don’t believe it. The police are, in essence, giving you time to do just that – and it’s well within their abilities. They know if you start talking, you may say something that they can use.
Officers are required to read your rights before custodial interrogations
What many people don’t realize is the fact that Miranda Warnings are only required when two things are both true:
- You’re in official custody, meaning that you are not free to leave at will. Being in handcuffs in the back of a police cruiser means you’re in custody, but merely being invited to an “interview” with detectives might not.
- You’re being actively questioned about a crime. This means that if the police are asking you things like how much you had to drink before you got behind the wheel while you’re in handcuffs, that’s an interrogation. However, if the police don’t ask you anything and merely listen while you nervously admit to having “just a single beer,” they can (and will) certainly make note of your comments for later and Miranda isn’t required.
Rumors have long abounded that a missing Miranda Warning means your case will be thrown out, but nobody who is facing criminal charges should ever listen to rumors – or engage in a conversation with the police without legal guidance.