The Real Deal: When are officers required to read Miranda Rights?

HandcuffingBy Michael K. Browne, Assistant Director – Office of Police Conduct Review

You have the right to remain silent…

Despite our familiarity with that famous phrase born from Miranda v. Arizona, many harbor the notion that whenever officers arrest or question an individual, the law requires them to provide the Miranda warning.

Here’s the real deal: both the Supreme Courts of the United States and Minnesota have consistently held that officers only need to recite the Miranda warning when interrogating an individual who is in custody. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966); State v. Miller, 573 N.W.2d 661, 670 (Minn. 1998). When ruling on the issue, courts employ a two-step process to determine whether officers were required to read the Miranda warning, determining first whether the individual was in custody and second whether the questions posed by the officer constituted an interrogation.

When is an individual in custody?

The Minnesota Supreme Court first asks, “Would a reasonable person in the individual’s situation have understood that he [or she] was in custody?” State v. Miller at 670 (Minn. 1998). The most clear cut example of an individual being “in custody” is when officers arrest and hold the individual in a detention facility. Few people would believe they are free to leave when locked in a cell or handcuffed in an interrogation room. But simply being asked by an officer to come to the police station to give a statement does not trigger Miranda protections. If officers do not limit an individual’s freedom to leave and the individual comes of her own volition, officers may not have to provide the Miranda warning.

When is an individual being interrogated?

The Minnesota Supreme Court reiterated in State v. Paul that “the term ‘interrogation’ under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect.”716 N.W.2d 329, 336-37 (Minn. 2006)(internal quotation marks omitted). Hence, not every question posed by an officer constitutes an interrogation triggering Miranda protections. Officers may elicit simple booking information after an arrest without reading a Miranda warning.

What happens if officers do not provide the warning?

Courts may exclude any statements provided by the individual and all evidence stemming from that statement if officers do not provide a Miranda warning. However, there are a number of exceptions to this rule. For example, the “public safety exception” to the Miranda rule allows an officer to question an individual about the whereabouts of a discarded loaded firearm due to its potentially hazardous nature. See New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649 (1984).

Know your rights.

The Supreme Courts of the United States and Minnesota established the constitutional requirement that officers read the Miranda warning when they intend to interrogate an in-custody individual. Again, here’s the real deal, those encountering law enforcement always enjoy Fifth Amendment protections, namely the right to refuse to provide a self-incriminating statement. These protections do not evaporate merely because an officer is not required to read a Miranda warning. On the flip side, if an officer reads you your Miranda warning, assume that you are not free to leave and that the officer intends to ask for potentially incriminating information.

Remember… anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

Photography courtesy of Ryan Patrick

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