Most people who have seen a cop movie or TV show are somewhat familiar with the Miranda Rights. However, most people do not know how broad these rights are and how early these rights apply in the arrest and detention process.

Furthermore, most people have never heard of Berghuis v. Thompkins, a 2010 Supreme Court case which, according to various legal scholars, has “turned the clocks back” and effectively “gutted Miranda.” Berghuis requires defendants to invoke their Miranda rights affirmatively. Simply not saying anything during questioning could be considered a waiver.

Your Miranda Rights: What to Know

Although the Supreme Court handed down Miranda v. Arizona in 1966, failure to properly administer the Miranda rights is one of the most common procedural defenses in Monroe County criminal cases. The burden of proof is so high in a criminal case that it’s almost impossible for the state to obtain a conviction if a Rochester criminal lawyer can exclude any illegally obtained evidence.

How We Got Here

When Republican President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren to the Supreme Court in 1953, Eisenhower had no idea Warren would preside over one of the most liberal courts. The Warren Court is widely known for civil rights decisions, like Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark desegregation decision. The Justices also issued several important criminal law rulings, such as:

  • Terry v. Ohio (officers need reasonable suspicion before they detain suspects),
  • Katz v. United States (investigators must have a search warrant to tap a phone),
  • United States v. Wade (limits on police lineups),
  • Escobedo v. Illinois (the right to remain silent),
  • Brady v. Maryland (prosecutors must give exculpatory evidence to defense lawyers),
  • Gideon v. Wainwright (right to counsel) and
  • Mapp v. Ohio (search warrants and the exclusionary rule).

The pendulum of justice swings back and forth. We mentioned the recent limits on Miranda above. Search warrants are another excellent example. Over the years, courts have carved out so many exceptions to the warrant requirement that the rule itself does not come up very much anymore.

Content Issues and the Miranda Rights

The Miranda rights cover the Fifth Amendment’s right to remain silent and the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel. The Fifth Amendment covers more than verbal silence. It also applies to physical silence. Defendants need not appear in lineups, pose for pictures, or perform field sobriety tests, like the walk-and-turn. To be sure, there are consequences for such refusals.

Police officers almost always assume uncooperative defendants have something to hide and are therefore guilty. However, the arrest process is a lot like a runaway train. Once it starts, it only ends one way, at least in most cases.

We mentioned DWIs and the Fifth Amendment. There are some Sixth Amendment issues in this area as well. Since the chemical test is such an essential point in these cases, many Rochester criminal lawyers have argued that defendants should be able to talk to lawyers before they say yes or no.

Incidentally, the Miranda Rights are not just a formality. Officers cannot read defendants their rights if the defendants are passed out. Additionally, if English is not a defendant’s first language, the police department must generally provide an interpreter.

Timing Issues

In the movies, cops usually read defendants their rights as they handcuff them. In the real world, if police officers wait that long, they have already violated the law.

Under current law, defendants must be apprised of their Miranda rights when custodial interrogation begins. Let’s break these things down a bit.

Custody does not mean confinement. Instead, defendants are in custody when they do not feel free to leave. Most people don’t feel free to leave once an officer says, “license and registration, please.” Some people don’t feel free to go when they see flashing lights in their rearview mirrors.

Similarly, interrogation does not mean asking questions. Experienced officers know how to extract information without asking questions. So, if a police officer says anything without first administering the Miranda warnings, whatever the defendant says or does next is probably inadmissible in court.

Talk to a Diligent Attorney About Your Miranda Rights

If officers don’t properly Mirandize defendants, judges usually throw the cases out of court. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.

The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

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