They Didn't Read my Miranda Rights! My Case will be Dismissed Right? Blog by Matthew S. Schuh
In my defense practice, this is one question that I get over and over again. They didn’t read my Miranda rights…. My rights have been violated…. So we can get my case dismissed right?!?!?
Short answer, no.
It is true that a police officer must read you your rights prior to questioning you. The police officer must inform you that you have the right to remain silent (USE IT!), you have a right to an attorney, and anything you tell them “can and will be used against you in a court of law”.
So if my case is not going to be dismissed, what good is that? Miranda is an exclusionary rule, meaning the government could be prohibited from using your statements against you at trial.
That being said, it is far easier for the prosecution to convict with a confession. If the prosecution’s case is thin, a confession may provide may provide the prosecution with exactly what it needs to convict.
Miranda applies to situations during which you are subject to “custodial interrogation”. There is a two-part test. (1) Were you in custody, and (2) Was the questioning tailored to elicit incriminating information against yourself? If the answer to either question is no, Miranda does not apply, and the police are not required to read your rights. Whether you were in “custody” is a fact intensive issue, largely subject to applicable common law precedent. Generally, if you are not detained and are free to walk away, the officer does not need to read your rights.
With that in mind, police officers may employ a few tactics to avoid the Miranda requirement. Without arresting you, an officer may show up at your house or on the street and ask you speak with them informally right then in there. Or an officer will ask you to visit the station to get your side of the side of the story all the while assuring you are that you are not under arrest. These situations are general dubbed “consensual” encounters, and are not subject to Miranda.
If it appears your Miranda Rights have been violated, your attorney will file a Motion to Suppress and ask the Court for a ruling prohibiting the prosecution from using your statements against you. If the prosecution cannot use your statements, thereby weakening their case, you have increased your chances at trial, the likelihood of a good plea deal….. and in rare cases a dismissal.
How suppression ultimately affects the prosecution’s case depends on the other evidence they have against you. If the prosecution’s case is thin without your statements, suppression may very weel be the difference between a guilty and not guilty finding. If the prosecution has video, 15 credible witnesses, and the smoking gun with your fingerprints all over it, suppressing your statements probably won’t help in the long run.