Legal English 16

If a suspect is in police custody, it doesn’t matter whether the interrogation takes place in a jail or at the scene of a crime, on a busy downtown street or in the middle of an open field. Other than routine automobile stops and brief on-the-street detentions, once a police officer deprives a suspect of freedom of action in any way, the suspect is in police custody and Miranda is activated. (See Question 19 for more on when a person is in custody.)

Case Example: Kelly Rozmus is arrested for assault. At the police station, Officer Mayorkas seeks to question Rozmus about the events leading up to the assault.

Question: Does Rozmus have to answer the officer’s questions?

Answer: No. Rozmus has a constitutional right to remain silent, and if Officer Mayorkas fails to warn Rozmus of the Miranda rights before questioning begins, then nothing Rozmus says is later admissible in evidence.

The Miranda Case

Ernesto Miranda was arrested for kidnapping and raping a young woman in Arizona. Ten days after the rape took place, the victim picked Miranda out of a lineup and identified him as her attacker. The police took Miranda into an interrogation room and questioned him for two hours. Eventually, Miranda broke down and confessed in writing to committing the rape. The police did not physically abuse Miranda or trick him into confessing. At trial, the prosecution offered Miranda’s confession into evidence, and he was convicted. On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction and granted Miranda a new trial. The Supreme Court decided that the confession should not have been admitted into evidence at Miranda’s trial because the police had not advised Miranda of his right to remain silent and to consult with counsel. Miranda was convicted again after a second trial, even though the prosecution was not able to offer Miranda’s confession into evidence.


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