How And When Do Miranda Rights Come Into Play In A Criminal Case?
Miranda, it's a very big misconception. A lot of people that I speak with, whether they hire me or not, one of the earliest things out of their mouth is, “Well, the whole case should get dismissed because the officer didn't read me my Miranda Rights”. I have to let them know that's not how Miranda works. There are two prongs to Miranda. It has to be a custodial situation, meaning you're in custody. You might not be behind the bars but you're in custody which means you're not free to leave. You may or may not be in handcuffs. It doesn't have to be that you're in handcuffs but if you're not free to leave, and it's always a good idea to ask the officer, “Am I free to leave”, “can I leave” because sometimes, an officer will try to turn a contact with an individual into what they call a consensual contact, “Well, this was a consensual contact. So I didn't have them detained and they could have left.
You should ask, “Can I leave, am I free to leave?” The chances are if you're standing there with a police officer, you're not free to leave. But it doesn't hurt to say, “Am I free to leave?” You can be detained and now being the subject of investigation but there is no bright line rule for me to say you're in custody or you're not in custody if it's something short of you being in handcuffs sitting in the squad car or down at the station in a holding stuff. So we'd have to see does it appear to be that you're in custody but the other part of this is it has to be an interrogation. So Miranda is only triggered by a custodial interrogation. And a lot of people get the misconception that because they are having a conversation with the officer that they're being interrogated.
An interrogation is something that is not just any old exchange of words. So if the officer is asking you very specific questions that are going to possibly lead to incriminating statements from you, that could be an interrogation. But what the officer is doing, they're very skilled at this, they often ask you a very broad open-ended question like, “Well, we got a report of a disturbance, what's going on here”, or, “We heard there is a fight. She says you did this, this and this”, and they leave it like a very broad question so the person feels compelled to answer when they don't have to answer. If they are not being asked a very specific question like, “Where is the body, where is the gun”, they'll just say, “We heard there is a problem here, what's going on”, especially with domestic violence situations and you just start talking. The person just starts talking and before they know it, they put their foot in their mouth. So it has to be custodial and it has to be an interrogation to trigger your Miranda warnings.
How Does Being An Upstanding Citizen With No Priors Impact A Criminal Case?
It may slightly, it really depends on the offense. For example, if you get a DUI, the prosecutor is not going to care that you're military with 19 years, 11 months and you're 1 month short of your honorable discharge from the military. They don't care about that. Now, for some offenses, they may say, “Well, this person has never been in trouble before”, let's say a shoplifting or minor shoplifting, “This person has never been arrested for shoplifting before, they've never been convicted of shoplifting before. Maybe we can get them into a type of a diversion program or maybe the store is willing to compromise”, I mean the store could compromise it, it's regardless of the person's circumstances.
But maybe if it's presented the right way, the store might be willing to compromise it, meaning file to agree to a dismissal but that would require the store being reimbursed for any damages of anything that was stolen or damage that the person was trying to steal it. It helps to paint a picture in us trying to get working with the prosecutor and trying to get any sort of a resolution that's a non-trial resolution. I do try to present something about the person to make them a real person. This is not a career-criminal, this is not a frequent flyer, as we call them the people that are always getting in trouble. This is someone who had one bad lapse in judgment.
They had a bad day, they had a fight with their spouse or loved one, they just lost their job, they got some really bad news, somebody in the family who got a really bad illness and there was a lot of stress so they ended up drinking or they took some pills they shouldn't have or smoked a joint when they shouldn't have or walked out of the store with something and didn't pay for it when they shouldn't have done that but this is not their normal behavior. That does sometimes help in fashioning a non-trial resolution.
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