Myths About Miranda Warnings

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“You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to an attorney.  If you cannot afford an attorney one will be provided to you by the court.  Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?”  For folks watching police dramas and television shows with some regularity, the Miranda warnings are easily memorized.  Reciting these warnings and explaining their function and use in a criminal investigation is a much more complicated task.
Average citizens have several misconceptions about the Miranda warnings.  These misconceptions, if believed, can cause defendants no small measure of confusion and false hopes:

  • My criminal case must be dismissed if the police do not read me my Miranda warnings.  One particularly prevalent myth holds that an arrest or criminal case must be dismissed or result in a plea bargain if an officer does not read the suspect their Miranda rights.  While failing to read an arrestee their Miranda rights may result in the exclusion of any statements the suspect made while in custody (which may eventually lead to a decision to dismiss the case), there is no rule that requires the automatic dismissal of a criminal case because the officer failed to read the suspect his Miranda warnings.
  • An officer must read me my Miranda warnings before talking to me.  An officer who is engaging a citizen in casual and voluntary conversation need not give the person Miranda warnings.  An officer who is investigating a crime and believes that a person is somehow connected to the crime or has information about the crime need not give that person Miranda warnings unless the officer detains or arrests the person before further interrogation. If the person remains free to leave the officer’s presence or terminate the conversation with the officer when the person so chooses, then that person has not been detained and the officer is not required to read the Miranda warnings.
  • An officer must have me sign a Miranda warning form or else the waiver of my Miranda rights is not valid.  A person can give up their Miranda rights by voluntarily talking with officers after being informed of their Miranda rights.  There is nothing that requires that a person waive his Miranda warnings in writing for a court to conclude that the person knowingly and voluntarily provided the waiver.  Many police agencies do have the suspect sign a written waiver to eliminate later questions about whether the suspect did understand their Miranda warnings, but this is not required.

The Greenville criminal defense attorneys of David R. Price, Jr., P.A. are committed to helping South Carolina residents charged with criminal offenses protect their rights during all stages of their criminal case.  Contact our firm by phone or online to discuss your case and charges with a member of our experienced criminal defense team.

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