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Understanding Your Miranda Rights

Clients often ask why they weren't read their Miranda rights during police questioning. Sometimes, they ask why they weren't read their Miranda rights when they were placed under arrest. In DWI/DUI cases, clients sometimes ask why they weren't read their Miranda rights prior to a request for a chemical test of their blood, breath, and urine.

These are important questions, and pop culture has skewed people's understanding of the protections provided by the seminal United States Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona. This blog post--which is the first in a three-part series exploring the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution--explains your Miranda rights as they exist in Minnesota.

In 1966, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Miranda v. Arizona. This case set forth one of the most important rules in criminal law: a prosecutor may not use statements "whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination." If a police officer fails to use procedural safeguards (explained below) prior to custodial interrogation, any statement made by the defendant during questioning may be deemed inadmissible at trial.

The procedural safeguards required by Mirada provide that a suspect, before any custodial interrogation takes place, must be warned that he has the right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that and that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed. A verbatim recitation of this warning is not required, as long as it is correct in substance.

Any waiver of the rights provided by Miranda must be made voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently. If the defendant indicates in any manner and at any stage of the process that he or she wishes to consult with an attorney before speaking, there can be no questioning.

One of the most important and often overlooked takeaways from what has been stated thus far is that Miranda only applies when a person is subjected to "custodial interrogation." Custodial interrogation means questioning initiated by a law enforcement officer after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his or her freedom of action in any significant way.

Over the years, courts have established that roadside questioning is usually not custodial interrogation for purposes of a Miranda violation. Likewise, an invitation to speak with a police officer at the police station, in circumstances that suggest an individual is not detained, does not constitute custodial interrogation. Placing someone under arrest does not trigger Miranda if the officer does not question or interrogate the arrested person. Finally, a request to produce a blood, breath, or urine sample in a DWI/DUI case does not implicate Miranda because a person is not required to make a "statement."

There are many nuances to Miranda that are not explained here. If a police officer has asked you to come in for questioning, or if you have been placed under arrest, your best bet is to contact an attorney to make sure your rights are protected. Grant Borgen of Bird, Jacobsen & Stevens, P.C. handles criminal cases and is always available for a free consultation.

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