When do I have the right to remain silent? The short answer is you almost always have the right to remain silent. If you do choose to speak to the police, anything you say can and will be used against you in court. Do these words sound familiar? They should. They are called your “Miranda rights”. The United States Supreme Court ruled over 50 years ago in a case called Miranda v. Arizona, that police must inform a criminal suspect of their rights prior to any police custodial interrogation. The rights that the police must inform you of are pretty straight forward, but the most common issues that arise are generally when a person is in “custody” and what constitutes “interrogation”.
Your Miranda rights are set forth in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Section 38.22. Those rights are: 1) you have the right to remain silent and not say anything at all and that anything you do say may be used against you as evidence at trial; 2) you have the right to have a lawyer present to advise you prior to and during any questioning; 3) if you are unable to hire a lawyer, you have the right to have a lawyer appointed to you to advise you prior to and during any questioning; and 4) you have the right to end the police interview at any time.
Now that you know your rights, when do they apply? Just because the police are talking to you and don’t read you these rights doesn’t mean that what you say can’t be used against you. These rights only apply when you are in “custody” and subject to “interrogation”. Unless both parts are met, anything you say can be used against you! If the police simply walk up to you on the street and start talking to you, you are not in custody because you are free to leave and stop talking to them at any time. If the police say that you are being “detained” because they are investigating whether a crime has occurred, then your rights may apply. If you have been arrested for a crime, then your rights definitely apply.
So, what is that middle ground when you have been “detained” but not yet “arrested”? This is usually the battle your attorney will fight with the prosecutor in court. Your Miranda rights only apply when you are in “custody” which means that a reasonable person would believe that they have been deprived of their freedom to a degree associated with formal arrest. This means that the officers don’t have to say “You’re under arrest” before your rights apply. Even if the officers say that you are “only being detained” but you are placed in handcuffs and placed in the back of their patrol car, your rights may apply. The Judge is going to look at the facts and determine if you have been deprived of your freedom to a degree associated with formal arrest, even if the police don’t say you are under arrest.
If the Judge determines that you are in fact in “custody”, the next question is whether you are subject to “interrogation”. Most people think of interrogation as the back room of a police station where a suspect is sitting at a table and the detective is pounding his fists on the table telling the suspect to confess. While this situation would most certainly count as interrogation, most people don’t realize that the moment you are placed in “custody” and the police start asking you questions about what happened constitutes “interrogation”. Let’s say the police just place you in handcuffs and are walking you to their patrol car. If the officer asks you in a friendly and casual way about what happened and you tell him anything, your statements should not be admissible in court. Now, if the police do further investigation and find other evidence based on your inadmissible statements, that evidence would most likely be admissible, but your statements would not. So, what is the best practice? Know your rights and talk to your lawyer, like a criminal lawyer Arlington TX trusts. Better yet, call an experienced defense attorney who will help walk you through this process and help you decide if you should or should not talk to the police and whether anything you said is or is not admissible against you.
The police want you to talk and say as much as you can, whether it is a straight-up confession or a commitment to a set of facts that they can later prove you are lying about. You can bet the prosecutor will use any lie you say to the police against you in court to call you a liar and therefore imply that you are hiding the fact that you committed a crime.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into Miranda rights.