On a weekly basis, criminal defendants contact our office after having been arrested. The funny thing is, they often aren’t looking for a criminal attorney to defend them, but rather a civil rights attorney to sue the police. The primary reason provided is that they were arrested and the police didn’t read them their rights. These defendant’s often explain they aren’t looking for a criminal attorney because the charges must now be thrown out due law enforcement’s failure to read their rights, and they now want an attorney to take the case on a contingency basis to sue the cops.
Unfortunately, these complaints, while common, are not well founded. Such calls occur so frequently, I am just left shaking my head about our population’s lack of knowledge of their Miranda rights, and what Miranda means.
Miranda v. Arizona is a case that was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in the 1960’s. What the Court held in Miranda is that any statement made by a criminal defendant cannot be introduced in the trial against that defendant if the statement was made to law enforcement while the defendant was in custody of law enforcement, unless the Defendant was advised that they could remain silent and have an attorney. In other words, Miranda rights only apply to the admissibility at trial of a Defendant’s statement while in police custody.
There is no right to have your Miranda rights read to you when you are arrested. In fact, it is common for law enforcement not to read Miranda if they do not intend to interrogate or question the suspect.
This does not mean that failure to read Miranda rights has not ultimately caused the dismissal of a criminal case. In some very limited circumstances, police have failed to read Miranda rights to someone in custody, yet obtained a confession. This confession has then been ruled inadmissible in court, leaving the prosecutor (in a very limited number of cases) with very little evidence to convict the defendant, therefore resulting in a dismissal.
So if you have been arrested, and the police failed to read you your rights, this failure likely won’t matter, unless you made an incriminating statement. Such failure by the police in circumstances where you remained silent after arrest does not constitute law enforcement violating your rights. Rather than seeking to sue the police for violation of their rights, someone finding themselves in that situation should be consulting with an experienced criminal attorney who can help them beat the charges.