Residents in Louisiana are likely familiar with Miranda warnings. Through movies and television shows, many people have heard the familiar "you have the right to remain silent" as a criminal defendant is led off screen by a stern officer. Despite their popularity as a dramatic tool in the media, many may not be fully aware of when Miranda warnings are legally required in the context of a police investigation.
Miranda warnings, in addition to the right to remain silent, also include warnings that anything a person may say could be used against him or her in a court of law; a person has a right to consult with an attorney and have the attorney accompany him or her during interrogation; a person who cannot afford an attorney can have one appointed to them; and an interrogation must stop if a person invokes their right to be silent or invokes their right to have an attorney present, until the attorney is present. Significantly, after a suspect has been read his or her rights, they must affirmatively respond that he understands these rights.
It is crucial to understand when Miranda warnings are required. Police are required to read Miranda warnings to a suspect if the person is in police custody and if the suspect is under interrogation. Police custody, which is often understood as a person having his freedom to leave deprived, typically occurs once a person has been arrested.
Whether an individual is being interrogated may turn on whether police are asking questions that may implicate the person in a crime. If so, this generally constitutes an interrogation and Miranda warnings must be issued. In contrast, a request for identification or general questions at a traffic stop are generally not considered to be an interrogation.
It can be confusing to know precisely when Miranda warnings should be issued. Sometimes police make mistakes, failing to issue them when required. If you or a loved one are facing federal charges and believe that there may be police misconduct at issue due to a failure to issue Miranda warnings, you may wish to seek legal counsel. It is essential to protect the basic rights of criminal defendants, and it is important that defendants are informed of their defense options.
Source: FindLaw, "Miranda Warnings and Police Questioning," accessed Nov. 13, 2015