You Have A Right To Remain Silent

Frequently, our client's at Emkey Law Firm complain to us that they were not given their Miranda warnings immediately upon arrest. Everyone is familiar with Miranda warnings from watching shows like Law and Order, or CSI.

"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 for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?"

What most people do not understand is when Miranda rights must be given. Unfortunately, because of these shows, most people believe that the moment they are handcuffed, they must be informed of these rights. However, that is not true.

A person must be advised of their Miranda warnings under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. A citizen has a right against self-incrimination. However, a person only must be advised of Miranda protections when they are taken into custody and interrogated.

Therefore, in order to understand if a person's rights were violated by police by the failure to provide Miranda Warnings, two issues must first be determined:

  1. Was the person in custody? and,
  2. Was the person subject to interrogation?

Custody is defined by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as occuring when a person is "physically deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way." Commonwealth v. Fisher, 352 A.2d 26, 28 (Pa. 1976). For example, if a person is in handcuffs and inside an interview room with the door shut, they are clearly in custody.

According to the Pennsylvania courts, when a police officer asks questions that are "calculated, expected, or likely to evoke an incriminating response, they are engaging in interrogation." In re. D.H., 863 A.2d 562, 566 (Pa.Super. 2004). So, continuing with the example, if the person is in handcuffs and inside an interview room with the door shut and a detective inside starts to question the person about their involvement with a shooting, that is an interrogation. Thus, Miranda rights must be read. However, if a police officer speaks to a person on the street about a crime and that person is not in custody and not being interrogated, they do not have to be read the Miranda warnings.

If police failed to advise a person of their Miranda warnings, a suppression of the evidence can be filed with the courts. If the suppression is granted, anything and everything the person stated may be thrown out of court.

Attorney Emkey and are skilled attorneys with experience handling Suppression of Evidence Motions. If you believe that you have been subjected to an illegal interrogation or that your rights have been violated, call Emkey Law Firm to schedule a free consultation.