Patrick Barone recently provided expert commentary for WUSA9 reporter Evan Koslof. On his Verify news series, Mr. Koslof seeks to shed light and truth on common questions, misconceptions and outright myths. After a video surfaced of a New York warrant’s division officer arresting a protestor off the street and stuffing her into a van, many on social media have questioned the validity of the police action. One contention on social media was that the police were wrong because they apparently did not the protestor her Miranda Rights before they arrested her. Mr. Koslof wanted to know if the Miranda Rights are truly necessary and how a failure to read the Miranda advisement might impact the police action. To help him with these legal issues, Mr. Koslof sought out two experts, a seasoned criminal defense attorney and law school professor. The video and article can be viewed by clicking here.
The central question raised in Mr. Kaslof’s investigation was whether the police are required to read a person their Miranda rights when they are being arrested? The answer by Mr. Barone? – A resounding “no.”
On the news appearance, Mr. Barone articulated that his opinion was based on a review of both State and National law. According to Mr. Barone, the so-called Miranda Rights arose out of a landmark United States Supreme Court case known as Miranda vs. Arizona. In this case the defendant, Eugene Miranda, was arrested in connection with a murder, rape. After being interrogated by police for two hours without a lawyer present, he confessed to the crime. The United State Supreme Court, in a 5/4 decision, said that the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution applied to this police interrogation, and that in order to protect Mr. Miranda’s Fifth Amendment right to a lawyer, prior to questioning he would need to be advised that he had a right to remain silent and if he choose not to remain silent, then the answers he gave to the police could be used against him in court. Also, that he had a right to have an attorney present during questioning, and that if he couldn’t afford an attorney, one would be appointed for him. Because no such “rights” were read to Mr. Miranda, his lawyer-free confession was deemed inadmissible.
As can be concluded from this explanation, the Miranda Rights are only relevant to police questioning and are designed to prevent coerced confessions. They are only remotely related to the police power to arrest an individual and do not serve to invalidate an otherwise valid arrest. On the other hand, if the police wish to question an individual about a specific crime or if they wish to investigate a suspected crime and have arrested an individual in furtherance of this investigation, then the Miranda Rights must be read to that person prior to police questioning. In these situations, if the police fail to read the Miranda Rights, then, like the case from which the rights originated, the statements cannot be against the person in court.
Miranda does not apply to the questioning of individuals as part of a criminal investigation prior to arrest. This means that if a person is stopped in a car, and the police smell alcohol, they can ask the driver if they have been drinking without any Miranda warnings. The answer to this question, even without Miranda, would be admissible in court. However, if that same person is given field sobriety evaluations and a roadside breath test, and then arrested for DUI, the same question cannot be asked post-arrest unless the Miranda warnings are given. Otherwise, any admission to drinking would not be admissible in the driver’s DUI trial.
Miranda is what lawyer’s call and evidentiary bar – a failure to read the Miranda advisement can result in evidence be barred; meaning the evidence in the form of statements or admissions would be inadmissible. Miranda otherwise has no independent bearing on an arrest, and do not need to be read every time the police make an arrest.