Almost everyone is familiar with the idea of Miranda Rights from their favorite television show or their high school civics class. Americans are generally familiar with the fact that all citizens are entitled to “be read their rights.” It is common for people to assume that if they have been arrested and were not read their Miranda Rights, then they can avoid punishment—but this is a fallacy. In most situations, if a suspect has been arrested, and law enforcement does not read the suspect his or her Miranda Rights, then the prosecution simply cannot use what the suspect states as evidence in a trial.
What are Miranda Rights?
Miranda Rights were established following the United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Miranda v. Arizona. The Supreme Court never laid out an exact phrase or manner in which Miranda Rights must be read. However, the Supreme Court in the Miranda case emphasized the importance of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Essentially, the Miranda case requires law enforcement officers to inform arrested individuals know certain legal facts upon their arrest, which is known as a Miranda Warning. Prior to questioning a suspect, law enforcement must notify him or her of the following facts:
- You have the right to remain silent;
- If you do choose to speak, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law;
- You have the right to have an attorney present; and,
- If you cannot afford an attorney, you can have an attorney appointed to you free of charge.
A Miranda warning must occur prior to any form of interrogation, regardless of where the questioning occurs. This means that if a person is being held by police and the police want to question the suspect and use the responses as evidence, then they must read the individual the Miranda Rights.
However, if the individual is not in police custody (i.e., has not yet been arrested), then the police are not required to read the Miranda rights and anything the individual states can be used as evidence in court. It should be noted that in most situations, regardless of if you are in police custody or not, you do not have to respond to questions. In most instances, your attorney will advise you to remain silent in the face of any question regardless of how benign they may seem.
Miranda Rights in Iowa
In Iowa, law enforcement must read you your Miranda Rights when you are in police custody and subject to interrogation. The term custody is defined under Iowa law as a circumstance in which a “suspect is deprived of his or her freedom of action in any significant way.” In which case, it is required that you are read your Miranda Rights prior to any form of questioning or interrogation. Should law enforcement fail to inform you of your Miranda Rights, any information or evidence they retain as a result of the information will not be allowed in a trial.
The legality and intricacies of Miranda Rights are far too complex to completely describe in one piece. Depending on your situation and how the police handle your case, your criminal defense attorney will need to take a look at your unique circumstances to ensure everything is being handled within the law. If you have been arrested it is critical that you seek the representation of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will be able to provide you with an explanation of the law as it pertains to your case. Do not take a threat to your freedom lightly, call the Law Office of Raphael M. Scheetz to schedule a consultation.