Whether or not an officer needed to administer Miranda warnings is a complicated box to unpack. Our experience in speaking with clients is that most people believe that the warnings were necessary, and without the warnings, a case may be thrown out.
This is not the case. There are many factors that play into whether or not the warnings are necessary. And if a Court rules that they were necessary but not provided, what is the remedy?
Three Part Test For Miranda
There is a simple three part analysis that we use to determine whether the Miranda warnings are required in any given situation: Are the statements in response to a (1) custodial (2) interrogation (3) by an agent of the State? If the answer to any one of the three questions is no, then the warnings were not necessary. The following is a breakdown of what each term means.
Custodial means that the person was by all accounts “in custody.” The individual does not necessarily need to be detained, but the individual must feel as though they are not free to leave. This is a case by case analysis and it depends heavily whether or not the person felt free to leave. If the individual is under 18 years of age, extra caution is used in the analysis tending to favor the juvenile.
Interrogation means questions that are intentionally crafted and asked to elicit a potentially incriminating response. When responses are given in response to an interrogation, the responses must also be voluntary – in other words, they can not be the product of threats or promises that undermine the defendant’s free will. If a confession is beat out of someone with a rubber hose, that confession is inherently unreliable. Voluntariness is determined from a review of the totality of the circumstances.
Agent Of The State
An agent of the state is typically a police officer, but other governmental officers can apply. Therefore, statements made to other civilians do not trigger Miranda warnings. Statements made to a shopkeeper or a school security guard are also not made to agents of the state. In almost all circumstances, the rule only applies if statements are made to a police officer.
How The Rule Is Applied
If no Miranda warnings were provided and you are curious if statements that you made to law enforcement will be admissible in future court proceedings or a trial, you can ask yourself the three part question: Were the statements in response to a (1) custodial (2) interrogation (3) by an agent of the state?
If the answer to any one of the three parts is yes, then statements potentially can be excluded from future Court proceedings. The process where that happens is called a 3.5 Hearing, which is short for Criminal Rule 3.5. Criminal Rule 3.5 provides:
When an accused’s statement which is subject to constitutional protection is to be offered in evidence the Court shall hold, upon demand, a hearing for the purpose of determining whether the statement is admissible.
At the 3.5 Hearing, the Court determines whether or not the statement can be introduced at trial as evidence. 3.5 hearings happen prior to trial and outside the presence of a jury. If the Court excludes a statement based on the above three part test, the jury should never hear it. Some statements are untimately suppressed, but the case would never be dismissed on this ruling alone.
Statements NOT Protected By Miranda
Certain statements made to law enforcement do not receive these constitutional protections. Statements that are made voluntarily and not in response to a question receive no protection. For example, when a person is sitting in the back of a police car and just running their mouth, nothing they say will be protected. That person’s statements are not made in response to questions, so the exchange is not an interrogation. Hence, no constitutional protection.
Witt Law Group is a criminal defense law firm based in Kitsap County Washington. If you have a question based on your Miranda warnings, or any other criminal defense question, give one of our lawyers a call. If this topic was of interest to you, CLICK HERE to read similar posts in our Blog.