Police officers must read you your rights only if they want to question you while in police custody and use your testimony against you in court. It is not illegal for a police officer to arrest you without reading you the Miranda warning.
What Are Miranda Rights?
The Miranda warning protects a person’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during police interrogation. It comes from a 1966 Supreme Court case called Miranda v. Arizona, which established that a criminal suspect has the right to remain silent during police interrogation and the right to consult an attorney. This means you don’t have to answer any of the police officer’s questions, and if you ask for an attorney at any time during the interrogation, the police officer must immediately stop questioning you.
What if Police Question You Without Reading the Miranda Warning?
If you’re in police custody and the police question you without reading you your rights, any evidence discovered as a result of that questioning is not admissible in court.
Sometimes people volunteer information to the police without being asked any questions. In that situation, what you say can be used against you in court even if the police didn’t read you your rights.
Police Don’t Have To Read You Your Rights if They Briefly Detain You
Another situation in which police officers don’t have to read you your rights is when they are just asking basic questions to establish your identity, or if they briefly detain you to question you about a crime. 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.
For example, a police officer can stop you while you’re walking on the street or driving your car if he has a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity. The officer can briefly detain you to question you, without a warrant and without being required to read you your Miranda rights.
During a Terry Stop, technically, you are not in police custody and you are free to leave at any time. However, the police can search your outer clothing for weapons if they have a reasonable suspicion that you may be armed and dangerous, and they can confiscate other contraband (drugs) that they find during the search. This is also known as a “Stop & Frisk.”
You Must Allow Police “Pat-Down” of Outer Clothing
You don’t have to answer questions during a traffic stop or other confrontation with a police officer, and you don’t have to consent to a search of your vehicle or home, but you must submit to a pat-down of your outer clothing if the police officer suspects that you have a weapon.
Keep in mind that, in some states, it’s against the law to refuse to answer when a police officer asks for your name, date of birth, and address.
If the police officer asks you any questions, all you have to say is, “Am I under arrest, or am I free to leave?” or “I’m not going to answer any questions” or “Can I call my lawyer now?” This can be risky, because if you anger the police officer by refusing to answer his questions, he may decide that he has probable cause to arrest you.
Why Didn’t the Police Officer Read You Your Rights?
As noted above, a police officer must read the Miranda warning to you only if he wants to question you in police custody and use your testimony against you in court.
In many situations, the police officer is a witness to the crime, so he has no reason to question the suspect. For example, if a police officer pulls you over for a traffic stop and he sees a bag of weed on the console of your car, the police officer’s testimony is sufficient evidence for the prosecuting attorney to charge you with possession of marijuana.
If you have questions about a recent arrest or if you’re wondering whether police illegally interrogated you, call St. Louis traffic law attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 for a free consultation, or email Andrea at [email protected].