Interviewer: At what point are police required to inform a suspect of their Miranda Rights? Robert J Callahan: That’s a good question because they are not always required to read you your rights. If they’re just doing a general investigation, what they commonly call a “field interview,” they’re not obligated to read you your rights. So if they’re just in an investigation and they’re walking down the street and trying to find information about a crime that just took place, they’re allowed to interview ordinary citizens in order to determine what happened. So if they walk up to somebody and say, “Hey did you see someone walking by here that had a mustache and a hat and sunglasses? We’re looking for a crime suspect that matches that description,” they don’t have to read rights to that citizen. Even if they feel like someone is a criminal suspect, and they don’t see anything outright illegal, if they don’t have what’s called “probable cause,” or a reasonable suspicion to speak to that individual, they can still inquire of that individual. They can have a normal conversation with that person saying, “Hey what are you doing here? What are you up to?” Now that person under the law doesn’t have to answer them, but they can still inquire, investigate in the normal course of their duties, or do a general investigation of almost anyone. Now to answer your question, when is it necessary for the police to read someone their Miranda rights, it becomes necessary once a custodial interrogation is taking place. So your right begins once you’re in custody. So as soon as you’re under arrest, as soon as they put the handcuffs on, or as soon as they detain you and put you in the car, they must, under the law, read you your Mirada Rights at that point in time. The interesting thing is that the way the courts have interpreted the law, it’s a little bit trickier to determine when a custodial interview is taking place. The courts have actually found that a custodial interview has begun when a reasonable person would not feel free to leave. So even if you’re not in handcuffs, even if you’re not in a police car, they may have to read you your rights. Let’s say for instance that there are three police officers, and they tell you, “Hey, put your hands on the back of the car.” Once they start to search you, and they’re all in uniform, a reasonable person in that circumstance is not going to feel free to leave. The police might say later, “Oh he was free to leave anytime.” The court would find that no, it doesn’t matter that he was free to leave, or that the police believe that he was free to leave, but what a reasonable person would believe. There are a lot of different circumstances where the court found that a custodial interrogation was taking place even when the person wasn’t handcuffed, in jail, in a police car, or being physically held. Interviewer: Do the Miranda Rights apply to all incriminating statements made to police once you are in that custodial interview? Robert J Callahan: Well if you make an incriminating statement without being given your Miranda Rights it’s going to be subject to the exclusionary rule. This again comes up where police have had people, who have not been given their Miranda Rights, give a detailed confession to a murder or heinous crime, and it’s the only evidence against them. In fact, in the landmark case “Miranda v. Arizona,” where Miranda Rights come from, the only evidence against the defendant, Mr. Miranda, was his signed confession. So when the court ruled in Mr. Miranda’s favor, the confession was thrown out, and he was entitled to a new trial. So with those rights, any of the evidence of the statements you made or evidence of what are called “non-verbal statements,” like nodding your head, or a guilty look, or dropping your head down, or starting to cry, those would be non-verbal statements, would be found inadmissible by the court. Interviewer: On TV when the police say they can help you out or reduce your sentence when you’re a suspect who confesses during questioning, how does Miranda apply to that? Can the police really help you out at that time? Do they even have the authority to do that? Robert J Callahan: Well there’s a really big difference between what happens on TV and what happens in real life. Just to start out, when I started practicing criminal law 20 years ago, once thing that stood out was how often someone came in to hire me and said, “The police did not read me my Miranda Rights.” I would get excited because at the time I’m thinking, “Really? They’ve got a detailed signed statement here that’s going to be inadmissible. Once we show that they did not read you your rights it is going to be subject to the exclusionary rule.” It was a big wake-up call when we got to court and find that the police are willing to lie quite freely about whether or not they gave you your Miranda Rights, especially in Chicago. It’s very common for a police officer to take a statement from someone that would amount to a full confession or an oral admission; they might find someone with some drugs or a gun and say, “Whose drugs are these?” and the person might say, “I’ll take the weight so these other innocent people won’t get in trouble. Yeah those are my drugs.” The officer will lie and later say that after being given Miranda Rights, he admitted to possession of whatever contraband, narcotics, or weapon. Sometimes we are able to show that someone wasn’t given their Miranda Rights. I’ve had statements and other evidence suppressed as a result of a motion to suppress evidence, statements, and confessions that have been granted as a result of Miranda rights not being given. You also asked if the police have authority to give you a lesser sentence or charge you with a lesser crime, and the general answer to that is no. It’s one of the techniques they use to elicit confessions from people that is illegal, yet it is very common. I hear it so often from people that the police said, “Oh just sign this statement and we’ll make sure you get probation on this case,” or “Sign this statement here saying that what you did was just an accident, and we’ll get you out of here in the next 24 hours.” Then the person signs the statement and realizes they are facing some very serious criminal charges as a result of signing the statement. The police don’t have any legal authority to bargain with a suspect or make promises with a suspect, and when they do, and you can show it, any statements taken after those promises will be inadmissible.