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At what point must someone be read their Miranda rights?

On Behalf of | Dec 27, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Most Americans have some familiarity with Miranda rights and the Miranda warning, or reading of those rights, even if they’ve never had to face the justice system themselves. Everyone has seen TV or movie police officers informing people of those rights as they’re handcuffing them and hauling them down to the precinct or the nearest jail.

While many real-life police officers “Mirandize” people as they’re taking them into custody to ensure that it’s done, the law and the U.S. Constitution don’t typically require it that soon. When does someone have to be Mirandized? The courts have weighed in on this over the years.

Understanding “custodial interrogation”

The Miranda warning is required before someone in police custody is interrogated. Say the police stop you in your car or a public place because you “fit the description” of someone suspected of committing a crime. They can ask you some questions (which, beyond identifying yourself, you’re not required to answer). They may even handcuff you and take you to the nearest police station. They typically don’t yet have to read you your Miranda rights. 

Before officers or detectives start questioning you at the police station or elsewhere, however, you must be read your Miranda rights. They’re required prior to any “custodial interrogation.”

Why it’s important to assert your rights

Whether they’ve read you your rights or not, however, you should assert your right to legal counsel. Authorities can’t legally continue to question you at that point until you have a legal representative with you. 

It’s important to note that if you start answering questions under interrogation, you have the right to stop at any time and ask for legal counsel. However, if you start answering them again after you’ve done that, you’ve waived that right.

While this can certainly be a stressful situation, it’s important to remember as much of it as you can. Once you have legal guidance, you can review what happened and determine whether you were read your Miranda rights at the appropriate time and whether other rights may have been violated. This can make a big difference in whether the charge remains or is dismissed.