The flashing lights, sirens, and verbal orders — this is the nightmare scenario. And my rights — what about my rights?
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After the noise stops and the colored strobes dim, an unfortunate arrest means seeking legal counsel from a Houston criminal attorney to help sort through the details. And your Miranda Rights are a significant element of the incident. You’ve seen it on all the cops shows. The police have to read your your Miranda Rights when they arrest you, right?
What if that didn’t happen. Can your case be dismissed if the arresting officer failed to read your rights?
The Miranda warning was written into U.S. law following the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision. The law states very clearly that before police interrogate a suspect, they must give the following warnings:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can be used against you in court.
- You have the right to the presence of an attorney.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you at no expense.
No Rights, No Arrest?
The Miranda Rights are not directly connected to the act of making an arrest. Police are working well within the law when they make an arrest without reading the arrested individual their rights. While television drama and movie scripts often link the Miranda warning with the act of arrest, that’s not necessarily how it has to happen to be legal. If you can be arrested without your rights, when are police required to read them?
Two factors determine when the rights must be read — custody and interrogation.
Custody means you have been deprived of your freedom. Handcuffs are the prime example. However, you don’t have to be physically restrained to be in custody. In this case, the “reasonable person” standard of felt freedom will determine custody:
- How many officers were present? More police translates to less freedom.
- Was force used on the suspect?
- Did the officer use physical restraints?
These factors plus many others can be used to determine whether you are in custody. If you are taken into custody, Miranda Rights must be read if the officers want to ask questions and be able to use the answers later in court.
Interrogation means questioning. And before police can interrogate, the Miranda warning must be read. After the notice of rights is read, police can begin obtaining information. Doesn’t this always take place at the police station in a small room? Not always. In fact, interrogation can take place anywhere:
- At or around the scene of the arrest
- In the police car
- At processing in the police station
Do I Have to Answer?
If you have not been arrested, the general answer is no – you don’t have to answer police questions. In most cases, police cannot arrest you for failing to respond.
If you are arrested, Houston criminal defense attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss says the best advice is to remain silent. The questioning period is a very important time following an arrest. Suspects will often let elevated emotions take over and reveal information can be used as evidence of guilt — even if the information it misinterpreted or taken out of context.
Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Defense
Where Can I Find a List of Common Legal Terms?
Look no further! Here is an incomplete list, and there are many more at the link below.
• Arraignment: A defendant’s first appearance in court to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
• Burden: The legal obligation by the prosecution to prove their case.
• Deferred adjudication: A special type of probation or community supervision where the charges are dismissed upon completing the terms of deferred adjudication.
• Felony: A serious crime punishable by confinement in prison or even the death penalty in the most extreme cases.
• Grand Jury: A special type of jury assembled to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against a defendant.
• Incarceration: Confinement in a jail or penitentiary.
• Nolo contendere: When a defendant decides not to contest the charges against them.
• Plea: Statement made by the defendant declaring his guilt or innocence: guilty, not guilty or no contest.
• Voir Dire: The process by which a jury is selected.
How to Choose a Criminal Defense Attorney
Choosing a criminal defense attorney can be a stressful decision. This is understandable, because it is a very important decision. We have three tips that can make the choice a bit easier.
1– Don’t go for the lowest price. Less expensive lawyers deal with a higher volume of cases. This means that you may end up speaking to an assistant instead of directly to your lawyer for much of the case.
2– Look at their experience. You need someone who intimately knows cases that are similar to yours.
3– Have they tried a lot of cases in front of juries? Experience in front of juries and their success rate can be very good indicators of future success.
What is a Statute of Limitations? Is it Different for Different Crimes?
A Statute of Limitations is the formal time a prosecutor has to bring charges against someone for a crime. In most situations, if that time has already passed, no charges can be brought against you. The limits vary depending on the crime committed, and there are some crimes where there is no statute of limitations. Some examples:
• 10 years: Theft by a public servant of government property; forgery
• 7 years: Money laundering; credit card abuse; Medicaid fraud.
• 5 years: Other types of theft
More serious crimes, like murder, manslaughter, and human trafficking, have no statute of limitations.
They Didn’t Read Me My Rights. Now What?
This depends on the factors mentioned above. If you voluntarily make a statement to the police before you have been arrested — this information would be fair game in court. However, if you were arrested and questioned without having been read your Miranda Rights, then the prosecutor in your case generally won’t be able to use anything you said in court later.
This doesn’t mean your case will automatically be dismissed or that the you cannot be found guilty of the crime you are accused of. It simply means that the statements you made before being read your Miranda Rights won’t be used during your trial, and confession isn’t always necessary to sway a jury to a guilty verdict.
The scenarios involving Miranda Rights, custody, and interrogation are complex. Each case is unique, and each person deserves discrete and individual attention. Lisa Shapiro Strauss Attorney At Law is devoted to helping clients navigate these legal issues and provide the best representation possible for each individual’s situation.