Dallas criminal defense lawyer John Helms discusses the impact of the police not “reading you your rights” when arrested.
I often have clients or family members tell me that the arresting police officer did not read the arrested person their rights. They want to know whether the failure to read someone their rights means that the person’s case should be dismissed. Unfortunately, the answer is, “no.” says Dallas criminal defense lawyer John Helms. The fact that the police do not inform an arrested person of their rights does not, by itself, mean that the case should be dismissed. In some cases, though, it can make a difference in how strong the case against the person may be.
A person’s “rights” in this context are those that the United States Supreme Court discussed in the case of Miranda v. Arizona. They include the right to remain silent, the right to have a lawyer present during any questioning, and the right to have a lawyer appointed if the person cannot afford one.
The police are not required to inform you of those rights. However, if they do not, then any statements you make in response to questioning while you are in custody generally cannot be used against you at trial. This was the rule that the Supreme Court announced in the Miranda case. So, the failure to inform you of these rights does not mean the case just goes away.
To understand why, it is important to understand why the Supreme Court established the Miranda rule. Our Constitution does not allow the police to force people to confess to crimes. When someone is in police custody, they may believe that they have no choice except to answer questions. They may also not realize that they can end the questioning by asking to have a lawyer present. The Miranda decision means that the police must tell a suspect who is in custody that they are not required to answer the questions and that they can have a lawyer. This prevents the police from making someone believe that they have no choice but to answer, and it prevents the police from endlessly questioning a person in custody against the person’s will. There are exceptions, but this is how it works.
The rule is designed to apply to police practices during questioning when someone is in custody. It has nothing to do with other evidence the police have found at the crime scene or in other places, so that evidence can still be used. That is why the case is not just dismissed.
There are cases, though, in which critical evidence of a person’s guilt consists of a statement to the police under questioning while in custody. If the police did not first inform the person of the Miranda rights, the statement generally cannot be used at trial. This may mean that the case is much weaker.
On the other hand, if the arrested person did not make any meaningful statements to the police while in custody, there is nothing to keep out, so the failure to inform the person of the Miranda rights makes no difference.
The Miranda rule has exceptions, and it only applies when the person is “in custody.” It also does not apply to statements that a person makes voluntarily. So, if a person is riding in a police car after an arrest and suddenly blurts out, “I did it!,” this statement can be used whether the police informed the person of the Miranda rights or not.
The law in this area is complicated. An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer will know the law in this area and should consider whether any statements by the accused can be suppressed, and if so, what difference it would make.
If you, a family member or someone you know has been charged with crime in the Dallas area, contact Dallas criminal defense lawyer John Helms at (214) 666-8010 or fill out the online contact form. You can discuss your case, how the law may apply and your best legal options to protect your rights and freedom.