I have lost count of the hundreds of times clients, or even people I deal with on the ball fields or school functions in my personal life, that ask me, “What does it mean if the cops didn’t read me my rights?” Well, that’s a great question! And what if you were arrested, but you didn’t even understand when your rights were read because you only speak Spanish or another language?
Many follow-up and ask, “Does that mean my case gets dropped?” or “Does that mean I can sue them for violating my rights?” Those are great questions because TV shows and the movies don’t do the greatest job at explaining how that really plays out in our world.
If you haven’t heard of the official term, these “Miranda” rights (named after the 1966 Supreme Court case that set out the law with regards to police interrogations in which the Defendant’s name Ernesto Miranda) are what you hear on any Cops episode or similar show: “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford one, one could be appointed to represent you.” That is the gist. But what does it mean when the police don’t even bother to read you those “rights”?
Well, it depends. Law enforcement officers are not REQUIRED to ask you these questions or “read you your rights” just because they are arresting you. And that is true regardless of whether it is a traffic arrest, a trafficking arrest, or an attempted murder arrest. The issue behind the reading of the rights deals with police questioning or interrogation. If they intend to elicit evidence from you by asking you questions which could be incriminating, then UNLESS they read you your rights before asking those questions, your answers may not be used against you. And that may or may not mean the whole case would go away, be dropped, or dismissed.
That being said, there are a lot of sneaky ways they can get around this. Sneaky because the average person unfortunately isn’t aware of their rights and when they can or can’t simply ignore or refuse to answer police questions. This is why it is critical to discuss the facts of any case with an attorney who understands this area of the law and can explore the legal defenses that may exist as well as whether or not the police violated any constitutional rights in their procedures. If you, or someone you know, has faced or is facing a situation in which a person’s Miranda rights were violated, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation to discuss how that may or may not impact your case.