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Published on 2/2/2023, 5:24:00 PM

The cops did not read me my rights, does that mean the case gets thrown out?

Many potential clients are quick to point out their rights weren't read to them while they were arrested. You may wonder if this means your arrest was invalid and your case will be dismissed.

The answer is no.

It is a misconception that every time that a person is arrested that law enforcement is required to "read your rights", and that if the rights are not read that the case is undermined to such an extent that the case gets thrown out on that technicality.

But the police are NOT required to provide individual rights to an arrested individual unless they plan to use your own words against you in order to prove the criminal charges.

TV shows like Law and Order, and most movies always show an officer reading a person their rights while placing them in cuffs. Practically, it never actually happens this way when a person is arrested. Police do not need to read you any rights to arrest you, instead they need to have probable cause to effect the arrest for a criminal offense.

What rights are they even telling a person about?

"Reading me my rights" refers to Miranda warnings, which in turn come from a United States Supreme Court case called Miranda v. Arizona.

It is also referred to as "mirandizing" a suspect. In that case, the Supreme Court found that if a person is arrested or otherwise in police custody, the police MUST provide these warnings to a person if they want to question that person and use the answers against them.

It does not apply to statements by a Defendant that are provided when they are not under arrest or in custody, and it does not apply to certain statements that are not in response to questioning.

  • For example, if in the back seat of a police cruiser an arrested person spontaneously starts rambling about their crime not in response to questions (sometimes called a "blurt"), that would be allowed to be used against them despite the lack of Miranda warnings.

I was questioned without being told my rights!

So what happens if the police questions someone after they are arrested without being mirandized?

It does not mean that the case automatically gets thrown out... what it means is that the prosecution cannot use that statement against the individual when they are trying to prove their case.

In other words, the jury does not get to hear that statement when they decide if someone is guilty or not guilty.

What are the miranda warnings?

  1. The right to remain silent and;
  2. The right to have an attorney present during any questioning;
  3. The right to refuse to answer any questions asked by Police

Either of these rights can be exercised after rights being read, and must be respected by the police afterwards. It is called "invoking" your right to silence or counsel, and it must be unequivocal, meaning it must be clear that is what a person wants to do.

Anything that is wishy-washy, and half-way doesn't count. For instance, if you say, well, I'd like an attorney, but I want to know what all this is about, that is not clear enough, and may be considered waiving your right to an attorney or to remain silent.

Who needs to provide me miranda warnings?

Miranda warnings only apply to government agents, like the police, questioning someone in custody.

If a suspect gives a confession to a cellmate in jail, for instance, even thought that person is in custody, the lack of Miranda warnings does not mean the prosecutor cannot use that confession.

Miranda warnings are only required when law enforcement is doing the questioning.

Can you keep my statement out of Court if I wasn't read my rights?

In order to get the un-mirandized statements thrown out, an attorney must establish that the person was in custody, and that the person was responding to questions from law enforcement prior to being mirandized.

The police cannot give the rights after the fact, there is no loophole. In other words, they can't get a confession, give the Miranda rights afterwards, then get the confession again.

Why do I need a lawyer then?

While the lack of reading of rights doesn't get a case thrown out, it may limit the evidence used against a person, so it is important to identify pre-Miranda statements and argue to the Court to keep the statements out of evidence.

How do I find a criminal lawyer?

Finding an attorney experienced not only in trials but in motions practice will be an important way to identify whether you have an issue in keeping statements out of evidence with a Motion to Suppress Statement.

Luke Woods and Max Frizalone have litigated these types of motions hundreds of times in multiple jurisdictions across the State of Maryland, in District, Circuit and Juvenile Court.