Generally speaking, if the statement was made voluntarily, then it can be used against you in a court of law (even if the police have not yet read you the Miranda warnings). Miranda warnings are a short list of rights that a police officer must make you aware of (usually be reading them to you) once you are taken into custody. The two main rights that Miranda evokes is the right to remain silent (in the face of police questioning), and the right to have an attorney present when questioning occurs.
But again, making you aware of your Miranda rights need only be done after you have been taken into custody. This means that if you are on the street corner, and a police officer starts asking you questions about something, the officer has not taken you into custody (in other words, you are free to walk away at any time). So any statements you make in this kind of scenario can still be used against you in a court of law. But once you are in fact taken into custody, the Miranda warnings have to be issued.
As you can probably see, a great deal of courtroom time is subsequently spent on determining whether or not the statements were made while the person was (or was not) in police custody. If it can be argued that the individual was in fact in police custody, but was not read his Miranda warnings, then any statement the individual made thereafter cannot be used as evidence against him. But if the prosecutor can successfully argue that the person was not in police custody (and was free to leave the scene at any point that he wanted), then all statements will be regarded as having been made voluntarily, and therefore admissible in a court of law.
But this is why it is so very important to know and understand your rights as a United States citizen. Police officials must obey the law when they conduct their affairs, just like the rest of us. And when they do not follow the rules, the consequences can be devastating. Regardless of whether you are a tough-on-crime conservative, or a bleeding-heart liberal, all of us can have our Constitutional rights trampled upon at any time.
The experienced St. Louis criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of Jennifer Alter-Rieken have been helping people with their criminal-related issues for years. Our goal is to make sure that your rights are upheld; that you understand what your rights are; that you are made aware of your full range of options; and that you are assured that our firm will stand by you through all stages of the process.
We have two locations for your convenience: in the Central West End, at 1 North Taylor, St. Louis, MO 63108; and in the Twin Cities of Festus / Crystal City in Jefferson County, Missouri (Highway 61/67) 63019. The initial consultation is free of charge. Call today to learn more.