Many of us, even if we have no prior experience with the criminal justice system, are familiar through television programs and movies about police and prosecutors with the “Miranda warnings” that must be read to criminal defendants during or shortly after arrest. At the very least, you might remember the two most famous lines “You have the right to remain silent” and “You have the right to an attorney.” However, most people do not know exactly how these rights work or what happens if the police fail to read them to you when you are arrested. Below, our skilled Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys at Overson & Bugden explain what Miranda rights are, what happens if they are not read, and how we can help you work to get your charges downgraded or dismissed.
What are “Miranda Rights” and When Must They Be Read to Me by Utah Police?
The Miranda warnings, also called Miranda rights, are required by the Supreme Court case Miranda vs. Arizona to be read by local police to any person who is brought into police custody, such as through an arrest, or into a situation that constitutes a “custodial interrogation.” A custodial interrogation is defined as any situation where the police are asking a person questions, and a reasonable person would not feel free to leave, whether or not that person has actually been placed under arrest. Whether or not a specific situation will be considered a “custodial interrogation” for the purposes of these warnings will depend on a variety of factors, including who was asking the questions, where the questions were asked, and whether physical restraints were used. This makes for a complex legal argument, and, if you were not arrested but believe you underwent a custodial interrogation scenario without your rights being read to you, you should contact an experienced Orem, UT criminal defense attorney like those at Overson & Bugden right away so we can analyze whether your situation indeed does meet the definition.
When given properly, the warnings have to contain a few main components, including the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney for any questioning that may occur, and the fact that the state will provide an attorney for you if you cannot afford one. The specifics of how this is worded can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction as long as the main points are in there. Generally, the warnings are given as something close to the following: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.”
What Happens if the Police Don’t Read Me My Rights?
Unfortunately, the failure to inform you of your rights does not automatically require that your case be dismissed. The prosecutor will still be able to use most types of evidence to prove their case, such as witness statements, video of an incident like a burglary, fingerprint or DNA evidence found at the scene of the crime, as well as their own personal observations leading up to the arrest. In many cases, this can be more than enough to proceed with a criminal case and even to secure a conviction.
However, if the police placed you under arrest or you underwent a custodial interrogation, and the police did not read you your Miranda rights before you were questioned, any information that was elicited as a result of that questioning cannot be used against you in proving their case. For example, if you are arrested and the police ask you questions in the police car on the way back to the station, and your answer to these questions implicates you in the crime, your answers will not be able to be used against you. The same would apply to any interrogation at the police station or to any situation that meets the legal definition of a custodial interrogation.
There are a few important things to note here. First, this does not apply to non-custodial interrogations, such as the police questioning you at the scene of the crime before arresting you and you voluntarily answering them. This information will be able to be used against you in the future, which is why it is critical to exercise your right to remain silent even before these warnings are given and to contact a skilled Utah criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson & Bugden so we can be by your side for any interrogation. Furthermore, if the police are not asking you questions but you simply blurt out something like “I did it!”, your statement may be admissible even if your rights were not read.
How a Lawyer Can Help If the Police in Utah Failed to Read Your Rights
If your rights were not read, our lawyers will make a motion to exclude any statements made after the arrest or the beginning of the custodial interrogation as a result of it being the “fruit of poisonous tree.” If this motion is granted and your statements were the main evidence in the case, the prosecutor may be inclined to simply drop the charges. If other evidence remains but it is weak, we may be able to work out a deal with the prosecutor, such as entering a plea in abeyance, having the charge downgraded to something less serious, like from murder to manslaughter, or the prosecutor recommending a lenient sentence in exchange for you pleading guilty. If the prosecutor does not offer a satisfactory deal or you simply are not interested in taking one, our skilled trial attorneys are ready and able to fight for your innocence at trial, where your statements after the arrest or interrogation will not be admissible.
If the Police Did Not Read Your Rights to You, Consult with Our Skilled Utah Attorneys Today
In many cases where there is other evidence that is overwhelming, a failure by the officers to read you the Miranda warnings immediately after an arrest may not matter much in the end. However, in other cases, it can lead to your charges being downgraded or dismissed outright. This is why it is vital that you contact a skilled Utah criminal defense attorney like those at Overson & Bugden anytime you find yourself in a situation where you believe the police did not follow procedure and explain your rights to you. Contact us today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.