Are Police Still Required to Read Miranda Rights?
Being arrested is a frightening experience. Regardless of the crime in question, finding yourself in handcuffs can invoke feelings of alarm, fear, confusion, and dread. In the adrenaline of the moment, it can be challenging to think straight, let alone know how to respond.
This is one of many reasons why it’s important to understand and exercise your rights as an American citizen. In the event that you are arrested, detained, or questioned by police, it’s essential to know the Miranda rights granted to you under the U.S. Constitution.
What Are Miranda Rights?
You’re probably familiar with the concept of Miranda rights. The iconic term has been widely used in TV and movies for decades, permitting the majority of Americans to recognize some or all of the famous spiel:
“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. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you by the court.”
“Mirandizing” can feel cliché on shows like Law & Order, but it’s important to remember that Miranda rights play a vital role in American freedom. The Miranda warning originates from the landmark Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona. The 1966 ruling established that law officials are required to inform citizens of their Miranda rights prior to questioning or interrogation.
The purpose of requiring officers to read Miranda rights is to inform or remind Americans of their Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer self-incriminating questions, and their Sixth Amendment right to legal representation.
Why Are Miranda Rights Important?
Requiring law officials to inform suspects of their Miranda rights is intended to protect Americans from being coerced into divulging incriminating information while being interrogated by law enforcement.
Keep in mind that states aren’t restricted to specific verbiage when it comes to Miranda rights, so long as these 5 conditions are clearly communicated:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say or do in custody can be used against you in court.
- You have the right to an attorney.
- You have the right to have an attorney present during interrogation.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will provide one for you.
What Changed After Vega v. Tekoh?
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Vega v. Tekoh case left many Americans reeling. How does the ruling impact American liberties? Are law officials still required to read the Miranda rights?
This confusion is understandable, especially considering the complex events leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision. To understand why the initial ruling was reversed, consider the following timeline of events leading up to the case:
- In 2014, a police officer (Carlos Vega) questioned a suspect (Terence Tekoh) about an alleged act of sexual assault. Vega questioned Tekoh in his workplace where the alleged assault occurred. Vega did not read Tekoh his Miranda rights prior to questioning.
- In 2021, Tekoh was tried and charged with sexual assault in California state court. The statements that Tekoh made to Vega were used as incriminating evidence during the criminal case. The jury acquitted Tekoh.
- Tekoh then sued Vega under §1983 for failing to read Tekoh his rights. The jury ruled in favor of Vega based on the district court’s instruction.
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the decision to rule in favor of Tekoh.
- The Supreme Court decided to hear the case. On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of Carlos Vega.
The Supreme Court explained the decision by pointing out that the Miranda warning isn’t a constitutional right in itself, but a broader “prophylactic rule.”
The court also stressed that a Miranda violation doesn’t occur when law officials take unwarned statements. Instead, a violation occurs “only if a prosecutor introduces and a judge later mistakenly admits that evidence at the defendant’s criminal trial.”
Simply put, while the Supreme Court acknowledges the Miranda warning as a valuable part of our American freedoms, the Miranda rule is not grounds to seek damages on police officers under Section 1983. Doing so would contradict the original purpose of the rule, defined by the court as “the constitutional rule designed to protect the right against self-incrimination and to help ensure that statements are voluntary.”
Popular “Miranda” Misconceptions: What You Should Know
So, what changed after the Supreme Court ruling in Vega v. Tekoh? The answer is: not much. The Vega decision ruffled feathers on a national scale, drawing strong opinions from people on both sides of the argument.
Regardless of personal stance, the Supreme Court enforced (and reinforced) key concepts regarding Miranda rights. To fully understand the impact of the SCOTUS decision, it’s important to be aware of the top “Miranda” misconceptions that still trip up many Americans.
Here are some lesser-known facts about Miranda rights:
- The Miranda warning isn’t required every time a police officer initiates an interaction with you. For the Miranda rule to apply, a person must be in custody, meaning that they are “deprived of freedom of action in any significant way.” Routine traffic stops are usually not considered custodial.
- For the Miranda warning to apply, a person must meet two conditions: 1) being in custody and 2) under interrogation. For example, if you are “un-Mirandized” and cuffed at the police station, blurting out a confession while you aren’t being questioned is admissible evidence in court because while you were in custody, you were not being actively interrogated.
- Police are not required to read your Miranda rights before or during arrest. While some officers may choose to do so, they are only legally obligated to “Mirandize” suspects who are being questioned in custody.
What if the Police Failed to Read My Rights?
Penalties for criminal charges are severe. If convicted, you will face life-altering consequences such as prison time, fees, and reduced liberties as an American citizen. If you were recently charged with a crime and an officer neglected to read your rights prior to questioning you, it’s crucial to seek immediate legal counsel from a qualified criminal defense attorney.
Our knowledgeable attorneys at Hulnick, Stang, Gering & Leavitt, P.A. bring over 80 combined years of legal experience to the table. If you feel that your Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights were violated at any point during or after you were charged with a crime, don’t wait to secure the legal representation you need.
Were you recently arrested? We can help defend your rights. Call our firm at (316) 665-7227 to request your free consultation today.