But, they didn’t read me my Miranda Rights!

You have no idea how frequently I will hear this from clients. Unfortunately, it is not that simple, and an officer’s failure to mirandize a defendant is not going to make or break a case. Here is just a quick explanation on how to know if it DOES matter.

1. Were you in custody?

This is not an easy question to answer, even for lawyers and judges. The North Carolina Courts consider someone to be in custody when a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would believe that he or she had been formally arrested or restrained to the same degree of a formal arrest. So we will look at things like the officer’s show of force, whether you were in handcuffs, etc. This is an issue that is frequently litigated by the courts, but the point is, if you were not in “custody” from a legal standpoint, then law enforcement does not need to mirandize you.

2. Were you interrogated?

The next question is whether law enforcement interrogated while you were in custody. If law enforcement asked you questions about the crime you were being detained for, then you have probably been interrogated. But it is important to remember, that spontaneous remarks made while in police custody, are probably not going to be covered under miranda.

3. Did you say something that law enforcement intends to use against you in court?

This is the final inquiry. Miranda warnings are only necessary when law enforcement intends to use the statements you made during a custodial interrogation. That means, if you say something harmful, but they decide not to use it against you in court, there is not a miranda violation.

So let’s use a little example to try and make sense of this. Some of the most common charges I see are DWI, larceny, drugs, or assault. So let’s use DWI in this example. Your friend Jeff gets in a car accident, and he has a couple friends in the car. Everyone is okay, but when law enforcement gets there, they think Jeff was drunk and wrecked the car. Because Jeff wasn’t in the car when they got there, they want to make sure he was driving, so after they place Jeff under arrest, and handcuff him in the back of their patrol car, they start asking him questions about whether he was driving. Upon questioning, Jeff admits that he was driving. We have custody, we have interrogation, and if law enforcement attempted to use this statement in court to prove Jeff was driving, we would likely have a miranda violation. In that situation, it’s likely your criminal defense attorney would ask the court to exclude those statements from evidence.

I hope this was instructive, but remember in these situations you still have the right to remain silent and to ask for your attorney. Call us today for a free consult on any of your criminal law questions!

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