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Miranda Rights


One story I will never forget always makes me ask, "Why doesn't the general public know more about Miranda rights?" About a year ago, one of my longtime friends got pulled over by an Ohio State Patrolman for having a broken taillight in his car. The officer gave my friend a hard time, and he concluded the routine stop by issuing my friend a ticket. My friend—very agitated and angry—called me and started to vent and ask me question after question.

His last question to me was, "Isn't the police officer supposed to give me my Miranda rights?" "Isn't that a good defense?" I talked to him about his situation, and tried to calm his nerves for the next hour. At the end of the day, my friend was stuck with his ticket for a broken taillight, and it had me wondering—why doesn't the general public know more about Miranda rights?

What are Miranda rights, and where do they come from?

Miranda rights were made from the landmark case of Miranda v. Arizona in 1966, which were made by the U.S. Supreme Court to protect your 5th Amendment rights. You know how they go—"you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, you have the right to an attorney and to have that attorney with you during interrogation, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you."

Everyone has seen this on COPS and in all the movies. Put simply, these rights are telling someone that they have the right to not talk to the police, the right to have an attorney talk for you, and if you are cannot financially afford an attorney, the court will give you one. However, these rights need to be read to you ONLY in certain circumstances.

When is Miranda applicable?

Miranda rights are applicable—they have to be read to you—once three (3) things are present:

  1. Police
  2. Custodial
  3. Interrogation

In a nutshell, police means that a law enforcement person (i.e. a police officer, state patrolman, etc.) is talking to you. A reasonable person would need to know that the person talking or questioning them is a law enforcement officer. "Custodial" and "Interrogation" is where the gray area of the law comes into play. Custodial means that someone is in the custody of the "Police;" you are in custody if you would not feel free to break-off or leave the encounter with the police. Interrogation is defined as the express questions or its functional equivalent.

In other words, when the police ask you questions that would be answered with an incriminating response, you are being interrogated. However, just because a cop pulls you over and starts asking questions does NOT mean you are being interrogated—basic "booking" questions do not apply to this standard.

Putting it all together, when you are being interrogated by law enforcement and you would not feel free to leave the encounter—you should be given your Miranda rights.

Did my friend have a case?

Turns out, my friend's Miranda rights—even though he was in a highly stressful situation—did not need to be read to him. He was about 2/3 the way there with the police being present and he did not feel free to just drive away once pulled over. However, you as an American citizen need to know and understand when your rights are being violated.

Law enforcement is trained on Miranda; however do not assume that law enforcement will always know when it's appropriate. If you need assistance in a criminal defense matter, contact The Meranda Law Firm, LTD, to speak with a local Columbus criminal defense attorney. We will work diligently to get your case resolved in the utmost amicable manner.