Miranda warnings play an extremely important role in protecting those who are suspected of committing a crime from having their words used against them if they are later tried in court. If you believe that your rights may have been violated prior to or during an interrogation, it is critical to speak with an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who can explain your legal rights.
What are Miranda Warnings?
In the groundbreaking case of Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held that whenever suspects are subject to custodial interrogation, they must first be read certain warnings, including that:
- They have the right to remain silent;
- Anything they say or do can be used as evidence against them in court;
- They have a right to hire an attorney to represent them; and
- If they cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for them.
If these rights are not explained, prosecutors will be prohibited from using the person’s testimony at trial.
What Qualifies as a Custodial Interrogation?
Police must provide Miranda warnings whenever a person is subject to custodial interrogation, which means that he or she is:
In custody; and
A person is in custody when he or she:
- Is deprived of physical freedom in a significant way; or
- Reasonably believes that his or her freedom of action is restricted by the interrogation.
In many cases it is clear that a defendant was in police custody. For instance, if a defendant was handcuffed and taken to the police station in a patrol car and then questioned in an interrogation room, a court will most likely find that the defendant was in custody. On the other hand, routine traffic stops or brief detentions do not usually qualify as custodial interrogations, which means that officers are not required to provide Miranda warnings in those situations. Ultimately, when determining whether a person was in custody, the courts use a totality of the circumstances test by weighing specific factors, including:
- Where the questioning took place;
- The number of officers present during the incident;
- Whether the officers made statements indicating that the defendant was free to leave or was under arrest;
- Whether officers confronted the defendant with incriminating evidence;
- Whether the officers placed the defendant in handcuffs; and
- Whether the officers transported the defendant to a different location.
To receive Miranda warnings, a person must also be subjected to an interrogation, which occurs when law enforcement officers question someone in an effort to obtain incriminating information. However, Miranda warnings may be required even if an officer did not ask a question, but instead made a statement that was intended to get a defendant talking.
If a court determines that a defendant was not provided with Miranda warnings, it will bar the prosecutor from using any statements made by that person during the interrogation during trial. Prosecutors are still permitted to use derivative evidence that was discovered as a result of a protected statement. The major exception to this rule is when an officer provides Miranda warnings after obtaining an incriminating confession and then attempts to obtain the same incriminating statement during a second interrogation.
Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Attorney
If you were arrested and questioned without receiving Miranda warnings, please call van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin at (215) 486-0123 to speak with a criminal defense attorney who can evaluate your case. Our Philadelphia criminal attorneys are eager to assist you with your case.