Police officers are not required to read you your Miranda rights, even if they arrest you. The only reason the police read you the Miranda Warning is when they want to question you in police custody and use your testimony against you in court.
What Does “Miranda Rights” Mean?
When a police officer reads you your Miranda rights, it means they are reciting the “Miranda Warning,” named after a 1966 Supreme Court case called Miranda v. Arizona. The Miranda court case says that a suspect has the right to remain silent while police are questioning them, so as not to incriminate themselves. The most common wording of the Miranda Warning is as follows:
“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 speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.”
This means suspects who are in police custody don’t have to answer the police officer’s questions. If you ask for a lawyer at any time during police interrogation, the police officer is required to stop questioning you.
Be clear about what you are asking for — say “I want a lawyer” NOT “Do I need a lawyer?” or “It sounds like I might need a lawyer.”
Evidence Can Be Suppressed If Police Question You Without Reading You Your Miranda Rights
If police ignore your request for a lawyer and keep questioning you, or if they fail to read the Miranda Warning to you before questioning you, they can not use your testimony against you in court. And any evidence they discover as a result of the questioning would not be admissible in court.
Keep in mind that any information you volunteer to a police officer can be used against you at trial, even if the police officer failed to read you your Miranda rights.
How Can A Police Officer Arrest You Without Reading You Your Miranda Rights?
A police officer is not legally required to read you your Miranda rights, even if they arrest you. As I noted above, the police officer only reads you the Miranda Warning if they want to interrogate you in police custody and use your testimony against you in court.
In many cases, the police officer witnesses the crime taking place, so they don’t need to waste time questioning you.
For example, let’s say a cop sees you speeding and pulls you over for a traffic stop. When you roll down your car window to hand the cop your driver’s license, the officer smells marijuana and asks if you have any weed or paraphernalia in the car. You answer truthfully “Yes” and you hand over a baggy of weed and a pipe that you had recently used while at a friend’s house. (Or you answer “No” and the police officer searches your car and finds your weed and pipe.)
At this point, the police officer may arrest you and take you to jail or just give you a ticket for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia and let you leave.
All of this is perfectly legal, even if the police officer did not read you your Miranda rights.
In this situation, the police officer can testify in court regarding what they saw and what you told them, which is enough for the Prosecutor to charge you with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. If you plead not guilty and take your case to trial, the Prosecutor will call the police officer as a witness to testify against you in court.
Of course, you should always consult an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with a crime so your attorney can determine if there were any constitutional issues with the search that would allow the evidence to be suppressed.
Police Can Briefly Detain You For Questioning Without Reading You Your Miranda Rights
Police can briefly detain you to ask basic questions about a crime, or to ask your name and address, without being required to read you your Miranda rights. This is called a “Terry Stop,” named after a 1968 case called Terry v. Ohio, which set new standards that allowed police officers to search someone for weapons without having probable cause for arrest.
According to Terry, a police officer can briefly detain you to question you, without a warrant and without reading your your Miranda rights, if the police officer has reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity. This is called a “Terry Stop” or “Stop & Frisk.” You are not in police custody, but police can search your outer clothing for weapons if they have reasonable suspicion that you might be armed and dangerous.
For more information, you can read my previous blog post about Miranda rights.
St. Louis criminal defense attorney Andrea Storey Rogers can be contacted at (314) 724-5059 or [email protected]