In 1966, the United States Supreme Court decided Miranda v. Arizona. Ernesto Miranda was arrested and questioned for two hours until he finally confessed to the crime for which he had been taken into custody. The Court overturned his conviction because it believed that the confession he made should not have been admitted into evidence at his trial. Instead, the Court believed that the police officers questioning Miranda should have first made him aware of his right to remain silent and to consult with an attorney. Because neither of these things were done during his initial interrogation, the Court felt that the subsequent confession Miranda gave was inadmissible as evidence of his guilt.
This case has become one the most famous decisions ever handed down by the Court. Most people recognize the phrases that have sprang out of this case, such as, “Miranda warnings,” and “read him his rights.” The idea is simply this: once you are taken into police custody, it is necessary at that point for law enforcement to make you aware of a certain set of constitutional rights that you have.
These rights include: 1) the right to remain silent; 2) if you say anything, what you say can be used against you in a court of law; 3) you have the right to consult with an attorney and have that attorney present during any questioning; 4) if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you; 5) if you choose to talk to the police officer, you have the right to stop the interview at any time. These basic rights are articulated a bit differently depending upon the jurisdiction in which you live. But the fundamental idea remains the same.
Many other cases have been tried at the state and federal level involving the issuance of Miranda warnings (including cases that involve St. Louis criminal defense). And very often, the case hinges upon whether or not such warnings were properly given at the right time by the police during their questioning. If, for instance, you are in police custody, but your Miranda rights have not been properly or timely given, then anything you say cannot be held against you as evidence during a subsequent trial. As you may have already guessed, a great deal of the discussion centers around whether or not you are actually in the police officer’s custody. If you are in custody, then the police must “read you your rights.” If you are not in custody, the officer is not under any constitutional obligation to Mirandize you (and therefore anything you say may be used against you). Future blog entries will more thoroughly discuss just what constitutes police custody.
Whatever your legal issue depends on, the expert St. Louis criminal defense attorneys at Brinkman & Alter, LLC have been helping people with their criminal-related matters for years. Our goal is to make sure you understand exactly what you rights are, what your range of options would be, and to guide you through the entire process from start to finish. We have two locations: in the Central West End, at 1 North Taylor, St. Louis, MO 63108; and in the Twin Cities of Festus / Crystal City, at 1000 Truman Blvd (Highway 61/67) 63019. The initial consultation is free of charge. Call today to learn more.