In America, almost all TV cop shows have a scene where the hard nosed detective reads some hapless soul his “Miranda Rights.” As this scene has become almost obligatory, most dedicated TV fans can recite the familiar litany by heart. “You have the right….”

However, the exact wording of the “Miranda Rights” statement was not specified in Miranda v. Arizona, the landmark case in which the Supreme Court established the necessity of informing those in custody of their rights. As a practical matter, law enforcement agencies created a basic set of simple statements that can be read to accused persons prior to any questioning.

It doesn’t matter whether this questioning occurs in a jail, at the scene of a crime, in the suspect’s living room, or in the back seat of a police cruiser. If a person is in custody (deprived of his or her freedom of action in any significant way), the police must read them their Miranda rights if they want to question the suspect and use the suspect’s answers as evidence at trial.

Pre-Arrest Questioning

It is wise to note, however, that there are situations where officers can have someone in custody and question them without providing the warning. During the booking procedure at a police station, officers may ask the suspect a variety of routine questions. The answers to these questions can be used against the defendant in court, even if the suspect hasn’t been given a Miranda warning.

In certain situations, police may question a suspect prior to arrest and use the answers in court without first providing the Miranda warning. If questions are asked prior to arrest, the resulting answers are admissible in court. This may occur when the police stop someone on the street to question them about a recent crime and the person admits guilt before the police have an opportunity to deliver the warning. Because the person was not in police custody, no Miranda warning is required and anything the person says can be used at trial if the person is later charged with a crime.

Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.

Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman