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Miranda Rights and Exceptions

Kendall Ponchillia

We have multiple protections against law enforcement interaction but the one that everyone seems to know about comes from Miranda v. Arizona, which held that law enforcement officers must give specific warnings to a person in regards to their right to: (1) remain silent, (2) anything an individual says may be used against them, (3) right to an attorney, guaranteed by the Fifth amendment rather than the Sixth Amendment, (4) attorney will be provided for this individual if he or she lacks the resources to obtain one, and lastly (5), rights may be waived. The police are not required to give “exact phrasing” of the Miranda warnings, just phrasing that reasonably conveyed the suspect’s rights as required by Miranda. The individual being questioned must be informed of their rights prior to interrogation and if law enforcement fails to inform the defendant of their rights, the evidence could be suppressed.

There are two requirements for Miranda to apply: (1) the person must be in custody and (2) there must be an interrogation. Berkemer gave us the analysis to determine whether a person is in custody. A person is in custody for Miranda purposes when he or she either is arrested formally or their freedom of movement is restricted to a degree of associated with a formal arrest. The determination of whether an individual is in custody depends on the circumstances viewed objectively not on the subjective views of either the interrogating officer or the person being questioned. Our second requirement, interrogation, was decided in Rhode Island v. Innis. In Innis, the court held for purposes of Miranda, an “interrogation” occurs when police either expressly question a suspect in custody or engage in any actions or dialogue that the police should know is reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect. The term interrogation refers not only to express questioning but also to any words on the part of police that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating statement.

An individual can waive his or her rights to remain silent. The two dimensions of waiver of Miranda are: (1) the waiver must be voluntary, and (2) the waiver must be made with an awareness of the right being abandoned and the consequences thereof. Once a defendant has invoked his or her right to an attorney, all questioning must stop. In Berghuis v. Thompkins, the court held that simply remaining silent is not enough to invoke the right to remain silent. An individual invoking his or her Miranda rights must do so unambiguously, meaning you must be clear in stating that you want an attorney before continuing with questioning. Unlike Miranda, we look at waiver subjectively, therefore we look to the specific interactions and events with that individual.

But, sometimes law enforcement and the prosecution can use statements obtained in violation or in absence of Miranda. There are generally three exceptions to Miranda: (1) if the statements are used for impeachment, (2) if the statements were obtained in an emergency, and (3) if the statements were made at the time of booking in response to routine questions by police.

The impeachment exception comes from Harris v. New York and there, the court held that when a defendant testifies on her own behalf in a criminal proceeding, the prosecutor may introduce the statements into evidence in cross examination, to impeach a defendant’s credibility. These statements can be statements that the defendant made, without his or her Miranda warnings, in response to custodial interrogation. The policy reasons behind this exception is that the criminal justice system is not going to allow Miranda to shield you if you on stand if are committing perjury.

The next exception, is public safety. In New York v. Quarles, the court held that if public safety demands it, a suspect in police custody may be questioned without first being read his Miranda warnings. If there is an objectively reasonable need to protect the police or the public from an immediate danger, then statements made by the defendant in response to custodial interrogation reasonably prompted by concern for public safety will be admissible, even in violation of Miranda.

The last exception is the booking exception. In Penn v. Muniz, the court held that police can ask normal biological information necessary to complete booking without giving Miranda warnings, but anything else requires the warnings. The police may ask things like, (1) arrestee’s name, (2) address, (3) date of birth, (4) height, and (5) weight.

To sum it up, after law enforcements reads you your Miranda rights, the only words that should come out of your mouth are things like:“lawyer” or “I want a lawyer” or “I need a lawyer.” Miranda affords all US citizens the right to not only be read their rights prior to interrogation but also the opportunity to stop questioning whenever they want to and to demand an attorney. There are a few policy exceptions to Miranda that protect against perjury and make our community safer.

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