Will My Case Be Dismissed if I Wasn’t Given a Miranda Warning

You’ve definitely heard it before on TV and in movies:

“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 an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”Will My Case Be Dismissed if I Wasn't Given a Miranda Warning

In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966), the Supreme Court held that police must inform defendants in custody of certain rights before initiating a custodial interrogation. These rights originate in the Fifth Amendment, which protects against self-incrimination, and the Sixth Amendment, which reserves the right to counsel. Miranda Warnings don’t necessarily have to be verbatim, as they are in crime dramas, so long as they advise defendants of:

  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to consult with an attorney and have the attorney present during questioning
  • The right to have an attorney appointed if indigent.

In fact, in cases where the defendant is a juvenile, police are required to deliver the Miranda Warning in language the juvenile can understand (18 USC § 5033).

In fictional media, the Miranda Warning is usually issued by the arresting officer the moment a suspect is placed under arrest. However, in reality, Miranda Warnings work a little differently. The warning is applicable to custodial interrogations – meaning, when you’re under arrest, police must inform you of your Miranda rights before subjecting you to questioning.

Many people misunderstand how Miranda works in the court of law. Oftentimes, people believe that if officers forget to Mirandize them the moment the cuffs are put on, they will be released from custody and all charges against them will be dropped. This isn’t the reality of the Miranda ruling’s application, though. If you can demonstrate in court that you were not given the Miranda Warning prior to interrogation, you may be able to move the court to suppress all evidence obtained against you in the subsequent interrogation. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the state may then have to dismiss your case for lack of evidence. However, this is not true of all criminal cases. In a DUI case, for example, most evidence against the defendant is obtained prior to arrest, before Miranda is applicable. So, it doesn’t usually make or break a DUI case when a defendant was not properly Mirandized.

It is incredibly important that you expressly invoke your right to remain silent and consult with an attorney. Simply choosing not to say anything will not invoke your Fifth Amendment right (Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370). In order to prevent any statements you make from being used against you in the court of law, you must tell officers you will not speak to them. While you’re invoking the right to remain silent, you should verbalize your need to speak to an attorney. For simplicity’s sake, let’s make it into one sentence. Tell the officer questioning you: “I will not speak to you without an attorney present.”

Once you invoke the rights described in the Miranda Warning, questioning should cease and will not resume until you waive these rights, such as when your attorney arrives and you state you are ready to begin questioning. If you fail to explicitly invoke your rights, officers will continue to interrogate you, perhaps even for hours on end. In Berghuis v. Thompkins, cited above, Thompkins remained nearly silent for three hours while officers questioned him. However, because he never invoked his right to remain silent, when he responded to short yes or no questions later on during his interrogation, the Supreme Court ruled these statements were admissible in court. Furthermore, any voluntary statements (i.e., statements you made without being asked a question) you make before the Miranda Warning can be used against you in court.

We’ll repeat ourselves now for emphasis: You have the right to remain silent, and you should use it. You have the right to an attorney, and you should use it. Don’t say anything to officers before you are Mirandized, and after the Miranda Warning is given, immediately and expressly invoke your rights.

If you’ve been arrested on criminal charges, you need a criminal defense attorney who will help you form a strategy that protects your rights and your future. Consult with Best & Brock’s experienced attorneys to set yourself on track for an agreeable resolution to your case.