You do not have to be extremely familiar with the complexities of the U.S. legal system to know that “Miranda” warnings are important. Starting with, “You have a right to remain silent,” Miranda warnings are used to help insulate suspects against coercive police tactics in interrogations.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about the requirements surrounding Miranda warnings. Here are the most important things to know:
1. The police are only required to read a Miranda warning in certain situations.
Miranda warnings are only required when both of the following are true:
- You are in police custody (meaning you are not free to leave)
- You are being asked substantive questions (not just your identifying information)
In other words, if a police detective asks you to visit the station for a “friendly chat” and you make incriminating statements, there was no Miranda violation because you weren’t in custody. Similarly, if you’re in handcuffs in the back of a cruiser after a robbery and you make voluntary statements that amount to a confession without prompting, there was no Miranda violation.
2. A single misplaced word won’t get your case dismissed.
There’s an urban legend that says your case can be dismissed due to a slip of an officer’s tongue or their failure to read the Miranda warning 100% exactly as it is written on a card.
That’s not true. Most likely, a minor change in wording that makes no critical difference to the meaning of the Miranda warning will have zero effect on your case. Even if an officer entirely forgets to read your Miranda warning to you before questioning you, that may only mean that your subsequent statements cannot be used as evidence. The prosecutor is free to proceed with the case using any other evidence they may have.
When you’re in trouble with the law, don’t trust what you’ve heard on the street about how your rights actually work. Learn more about your possible defense options from someone with experience and knowledge in the field.