Miranda Rights: Hollywood Vs. Reality - The Chicago Criminal Law Blog

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Miranda Rights: Hollywood Vs. Reality

Everyone has seen at least one crime drama on television such as Law & Order, where the officer approaches the bad guy, usually at the climax of the episode, and calmly (often smugly) informs him that he "has the right to remain silent, anything you say may be used against you in a court of law..." and so on.

The familiar utterance is referred to as an arrestee's "Miranda" rights, named after the 1966 US Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, according to FindLaw. Those rights, essentially a friendly reminder of the suspect's 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination, are read virtually every time a perpetrator is handcuffed in the movies and on T.V.

But most Illinois criminal defense attorneys probably roll their eyes when they see this not-so-accurate depiction, as explained by FindLaw. 

FindLaw says that police must read a suspect his or her rights after an arrest whether he or she is at the scene of a crime, at the police station or otherwise in custody and the police want to question the suspect. The key is that anything said after an arrest is admissible in court, but not all arrests are followed by an interrogation and thus these arrests don't require that Miranda rights be read.  

It is not true that the police must let you go if they fail to read your rights upon arrest, according to FindLaw.

And if someone is not in police custody and, for example, simply stopped and asked for information, then they don't have to read that person his or her rights. The key difference is whether the individual was in custody or not. So pre-arrest questioning does not require a reading of rights so long as it's clear that the person being questioned can leave at any time. 

Another example of the absence of informing a suspect of his/her Miranda rights is when someone is stopped (but not detained) by police and confesses to a crime or shares other incriminating information before the police even have a chance to "mirandize" the person. In that case, anything said is fair game at trial.

See the difference?

But no one has to answer an officer's questions before an arrest; with some notable exceptions outlined by FindLaw. If you're suspected of loitering and asked for I.D., for example, you must respond or risk arrest. Also, drivers stopped for suspected violations do not have the right to clam up.

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