We’ve all seen the cop shows on TV and witnessed a police officer giving a suspect a speech about his or her rights. Whether it was a drama, like Law & Order, or a reality show like COPS and LIVE PD, this speech (or warning) is called Miranda rights. Miranda rights are essentially basic constitutional rights given to every American by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. It’s not just important for an officer to read a suspect their Miranda rights, it’s the law. If you were not given your Miranda Rights you should speak to a criminal defense attorney.

It’s essential for the suspect to know what their rights are before the suspect was taken into custody and interrogated or questioned. If all that happens before the suspect knows their rights, then any information that they’ve given to the officer may not be admissible during the court hearing. Even if it’s a full-on confession of the crime, if they didn’t receive their Miranda rights before they made the confession, the court can throw out the case.

The Origin of Miranda Rights

Officers reading suspects their Miranda rights started back in 1966 after the US Supreme Court decided in favor of a man named Ernesto Miranda. He was arrested in Arizona for stealing eight dollars from a bank worker and was taken back to the police station for several hours proceeded to course the suspect into a confession. At no time during that time did the police ever tell Ernesto Miranda that he had any rights, much less the right to be silent or to have a defense attorney present while being interrogated.

After this case, the Supreme Court made a ruling that said that police officers must advise every defendant they arrest of their fifth and sixth amendment rights and that they must not continue any type of interrogation if the suspect chooses to remain silent. Police also may not demand a confession or continue to interrogate if a suspect wants a lawyer present. These are basic rights we have so that we are not forced to self-incriminate ourselves.

The problem with Miranda rights that we sometimes see today is the point at which a police officer must decide to read a potential suspect their rights. Yes, it’s required when a police officer decides to take someone into custody. But what if someone decides to speak to the police voluntarily? At what point during that formal and voluntary discussion should a police officer advise someone on their rights?

What About Confessions of Guilt?

When a person admits that they’ve committed a crime, this can be used as very powerful and impactful evidence against them in court. It can sometimes be all that’s required to proceed with the court hearing. Still, every criminal defendant has a right to not self-incriminate themselves. If you’ve never been arrested, you might not understand how the police use tactics to get an involuntary confession or to coerce/force someone to admit to guilt.

In this instance, it is not legal for a police officer to course or force involuntary admission of guilt. If this happens to you, in your court case what undoubtedly be tossed out, even if you were guilty. It’s interesting to understand how someone who is guilty can have their cases tossed out, but that’s because the police violated the defendant’s rights. He or she wasn’t aware of their rights at the time of the interrogation or questioning.

To explain this better, police officers have a way of questioning or pressuring someone in a coercive manner. They can force the issue while denying a person the right to their own free will. They can make demands and threats without telling a person with their rights are. You have the right to remain silent, but the police can violate that right. You may want to talk to a lawyer, but the police won’t let you talk to a lawyer. This stuff has happened and has been known to happen.

Here’s a quick example: with say a potential suspect is being chased by the police and they end up wrecking their car and getting injured. We’ve seen this happen on plenty of cop shows over the years. What then happens if the cop tells the suspect that the only way they’ll be able to go to the hospital and get medical treatment is if they confess to a crime? That would be involuntary coercing of the suspect. Of course, they would admit to guilt in that instance, even if they were guilty of what the police officer was accusing them of doing.

What Are Other Coercive Police Tactics?

We’ve also seen a lot of instances in movies in which the police acted as bullies. They can play the good cop, bad cop game where the bad cop gets angry and in-your-face. They can threaten physical violence, pull their guns out, or even rough up the suspect to force them to admit guilt. They can take other actions like preventing the suspect from being able to eat, use the bathroom, sleep, or other inhumane tactics to force a confession.

Even things like making false promises and saying that the suspect will be charged if he confesses right now or that they will be lenient on him can be considered as well. You have rights that require police not to treat you in this way, even if you did commit the crime. You are innocent until proven guilty which is why cops can use extreme tactics to force the admission of guilt.

Most police officers won’t use the tactics mentioned above. Police officers do have rights themselves and can legally threaten to arrest a family member if they are also involved in a particular crime. They can also lie, but these don’t go against the rights of the suspect. If it’s the suspect who starts the conversation before they receive their Miranda rights, then it most likely will be considered involuntary.

Other factors include the age of the defendant, where they have family members with them or not, and if someone is drugged and or as a mental condition that prevents them from being able to speak for themselves.

Read one of our latest blogs: How Does Bail Work In New York?