Anyone who has grown up with a television set in their home has undoubtedly heard the name “Miranda.” In Arizona v. Miranda, the United States Supreme Court held that all criminal suspects must be advised of their right to remain silent and speak with an attorney. Sounds simple enough, but no legal principle seems to generate as much confusion among non-lawyers as the so called “Miranda” rule.
Under the federal and New Jersey Constitutions, a criminal suspect must be advised of his or her 5th Amendment right to remain silent and their 6th Amendment right to an attorney under the following circumstances only: 1) The suspect must be in police “custody;” and, 2) The suspect must be subjected to “interrogation.”
“Interrogation” in the Miranda context basically means that you are being expressly or “functionally” questioned by the police. The test to determine whether a suspect has been the subject of “functional” questioning is whether the police knew, or should have known, that their conduct was reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the person.
“Custody” in this context is defined more broadly than simply being arrested. Rather, custody occurs for purposes of Miranda when a reasonable innocent person would believe that he or she was not free to leave the scene. As such, you can be in “custody” while in your own home, at a roadside pullover, or in public.
After being administered Miranda warnings, police may not interrogate you until you give a knowing, voluntary waiver of your rights to remain silent and speak with an attorney. In New Jersey, police will ask you to sign a Miranda Waiver Card before taking your statement. Not only should you usually never give a statement under these circumstances, you should never sign the Miranda Waiver Card either.
Police will almost always try to convince you to waive your Miranda rights and give a statement. Many promises will be made about the great deals they are going to get for you and the wonderful recommendations they will give the prosecutor and judge on your behalf. They will do no such thing for you. The only person authorized to negotiate with you is the prosecutor assigned to your case. The job of the police is to obtain as much information from you as possible to make the State’s case stronger.
A common misconception is that the failure of police to read you Miranda warnings can be grounds to have the charges against you dismissed outright. This is not so. Rather, if the police fail to give you proper Miranda warnings after taking you into custody and interrogating you, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to have your statement “suppressed,” or thrown out. In many cases, the suspect’s own statement is the strongest piece of evidence. In such cases, if the statement is suppressed, the State may be forced to dismiss the charges against you.
If you are taken into custody and interrogated by police, do not give a statement and do not sign a Waiver Card. Instead, politely state that you wish to remain silent and speak with an attorney. Call an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney for a free consultation if you feel that your rights under Miranda have been violated.