Do The Police Have to Read Me My Rights?

Providence Criminal Lawyer

We have all heard on TV the following Miranda rights being read…

  1. You have the right to remain silent;
  2. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law;
  3. You have the right to an attorney;
  4. If you can not afford one, one will be provided to you.

Many of our clients often ask us if the police are required to read them their Miranda rights before arrest? The answer to that question is always– maybe.

Before the police are required to read an individual their constitutional rights, or Miranda rights, there are two things that must first take place:

  1. A person must first be in police custody; and
  2. The questioning (or police behavior) must be designed to elicit an incriminating response.

Now, there are many grey areas as to whether these two elements have been met.

What is meant by being in police custody?

  • To be considered to be in police custody, it means that a reasonable person would not feel as though they were free to leave or just walk away.
  • An obvious example of this would be:
    • Being placed in handcuffs
    • Being put in a jail cell
  • A not-so-obvious example of being in police custody could be if you were suddenly surrounded by a bunch of uniformed police officers who were blocking the only exit to a room you were in.

What is meant by questioning designed to elicit an incriminating response?

  • To meet this element, the police questioning has to amount to an interrogation.
  • Routine booking questions such as your name, address and date of birth are not questions likely to rise to the level of an interrogation.
  • However, for example, being asked questions about a two kilos of cocaine found in your car would rise to the level of an interrogation because you are being questioned about a crime and any response at all could implicate you.

What is meant by police behavior designed to elicit an incriminating response?

Rhode Island has its very own case that went up to the United States Supreme Court on this issue: Rhode Island v. Innis. In the case, there was a robbery involving a shotgun allegedly committed by defendant Innis. The police already had Innis in custody in the back on the police cruiser. The police were driving with Innis back to the police station, but they had not found the alleged shotgun used in the robbery. While driving to the station, the officers began discussing the shotgun used in the robbery amongst themselves but within earshot of Innis . Tugging on Innis’ heartstrings, the officers mentioned that there was a school for handicapped children in the area and how tragic it would be if a child found the shotgun and got hurt. After hearing this, Innis interrupted the officers and told then to turn the car around so he could show them where the shotgun was.

The Supreme Court ruled that police actions can be the functional equivalent of express questioning of a person in custody and thus could be determined to constitute an interrogation. The Court ultimately found that the officers’ behavior in Innis did not rise to the level of an interrogation, but it paved the way for police actions to be considered. However, under the same fact pattern, if the officers were aware that Innis was peculiarly susceptible to an appeal to his conscience concerning the safety of handicapped children, the Court could have determined that the acts of the police were in fact an interrogation.

What Happens if Police Don’t Read Me My Rights ? Does My Case Get Dismissed?

Normally, if a custodial interrogation takes place without your rights first being read to you, the subsequent statements that you make will likely be suppressed or barred from evidence. If the prosecutor can not prove his or her case without that statement that you made, your case will likely be dismissed. However, if the prosecutor can rely on other evidence to prove their case, your case will not likely be dismissed.

Did The Police Fail To Read You Your Rights After You Were Arrested?

Don’t leave your freedom to chance. Call or text Providence Criminal Lawyer Noah Kilroy today at 401-855-9023 to find out if you are eligible to have your statement thrown out or your case dismissed.