When Do Miranda Rights Come Into Play In a Criminal Case?

Miranda rights come into play in a criminal case very rarely. Most people think that if you’re talking to the police at some point they’re going to have to read you your Miranda warnings. That misconception comes from TV and it’s not true. There is only one circumstance in which police have to read you your Miranda warnings and that’s if they are going to question you after you have already been arrested. That doesn’t happen in the most common types of criminal cases. If you’ve been arrested for something very serious, like a murder case or sexual assault case, and some detectives bring you into an interrogation room in handcuffs, then, yes, they will read you your Miranda rights.

The fact is that most questions people get asked by the police get asked before they’re arrested and therefore before the police have to read them their Miranda rights.

For example, if you’re pulled over on the side of the road on a traffic stop, the police don’t have to read you Miranda rights. They can ask you if you’ve got anything illegal in the car, if they can search your car, etc., without reading you your rights.

This is true even if the police have handcuffed you and put you in the back of their patrol car as they try to figure out whether they can charge you with anything. You may feel like you’ve been arrested, but you’re under what’s called an “investigative detention.” Believe it or not, sometimes the police are allowed to put you in handcuffs to make sure that you don’t flee the scene of an investigation or are able to reach for any weapon that you might have on you. And when you’re being “detained as part of an investigation,” the police are allowed to ask you questions without reading you your Miranda rights. Some people in these situations think that they’re free to talk to the police because their lawyer can get any bad stuff they say thrown out later because they were never read their rights, but that’s simply not true.

There are plenty of other examples. If the police call you up at your job, they don’t have to read you your Miranda rights over the phone. If they show up at your house, they don’t have to read your Miranda rights. If they come up to you on the street, same thing. Since you’re not under arrest in any of these situations, Miranda doesn’t apply. Once you’ve told the police incriminating things in these situations, you’ve made your lawyer’s job that much harder.

Bottom line, don’t ever expect to be read your Miranda rights, and don’t think that the police’s failure to read you your rights is somehow going to protect you.

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