While most people are familiar with the Miranda warning (“You have the right to remain silent . . . .”), few have a clear understanding of what it means. But, if you are facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania, your Miranda rights could have a direct impact on the outcome of your case, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the necessary legal concepts the Miranda warning entails.
To be clear, this is an extraordinarily complex topic, and understanding how your Miranda rights’ impact your case (if at all) requires the advice of an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney. With that said, here is an overview of some of the vital information you need to know:
5 Key Aspects of the Miranda Warning in Pennsylvania
1. You Have the Right to Be Informed of Your Rights
The basic concept of the Miranda warning is that criminal suspects have the right to be informed of their legal rights. If the police do not notify you of your legal rights as required, their failure to do so may entitle you to legal protections in your criminal case.
2. You Have the Right to Remain Silent
The Miranda warning must recite two fundamental rights. The first of these is the right to remain silent, as provided by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In relevant part, the standard Miranda warning reads: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
3. You Have the Right to an Attorney
The second fundamental right covered by the Miranda warning is the right to legal counsel, which is provided by the Sixth Amendment. Here, the standard warning reads: “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”
4. You Have the Right to Challenge a Miranda Violation
If the police fail to read you the Miranda warning as required by law, you have the right to challenge the violation in court.
5. You Have the Right to Keep Illegally-Obtained Evidence Out of Your Case
If you successfully challenge a Miranda violation, then any evidence obtained in violation of your legal rights will be deemed inadmissible in your criminal case. This includes not only any self-incriminating statements you made in response to police questioning but also any evidence the police collected based on the information you provided.
5 Key Limitations on Criminal Suspects’ Miranda Rights in Pennsylvania
1. The Miranda Warning Only Applies When You are In Custody
The police are not required to read the Miranda warning any time they question a suspect in connection with a criminal investigation or arrest. The Miranda warning only applies when the police conduct a “custodial interrogation.” If the police question you while you are not in custody, they do not have to read you the Miranda warning.
2. The Miranda Warning Only Applies When You are Being Interrogated
Likewise, if you are taken into custody but not questioned, the police do not have to read your rights. However, an “interrogation” does not have to involve sitting you down handcuffed to a table in a room with a two-way mirror. If the police question you about your case under any circumstances in which you reasonably believe that you are not free to leave, this is enough to trigger the Miranda warning requirement.
3. If You Give a Voluntary Statement, There is No Going Back
If you voluntarily share information with the police and they have not violated your Miranda rights, then the prosecution can use your words against you. This is true if either:
- You make a statement prior to being interrogated in custody, or
- You make a statement after being read your Miranda
There are some limited exceptions for circumstances in which the police coerce a statement, deceive you, or intimidate you. But, generally speaking, once you confess or provide self-incriminating information, there is no way of taking your statement back. As a result, it is crucial that you fully exercise your right to remain silent and let an experienced criminal defense attorney speak to the police and prosecutors on your behalf.
4. Miranda Violations Do Not Automatically Result in the Suppression of Evidence
As we mentioned above, if the police violate your Miranda rights, you can raise the issue in court. The key here is that you must raise the issue. It is not going to come up on its own, and the prosecutor’s office is not going to voluntarily sit on a confession that may or may not have been obtained unconstitutionally.
5. Not All Miranda Violations Provide Defenses in Court
Finally, if the police violated your Miranda rights, it is essential not to get ahead of yourself. While a Miranda violation may provide you with a defense, (i) this won’t always be the case, and (ii) even if your confession is inadmissible, the prosecutor’s office may still have other evidence it can use to convict you.
For example, let’s say you gave a confession after your arrest, but before you were taken into custody, and, once the police detained you, they failed to read your rights. Since you confessed before the Miranda warning applied, your confession is still admissible. Alternatively, let’s suppose that you confessed during a custodial interrogation without having been read your rights, but the prosecution has the crime on video. In this scenario, even though your confession is inadmissible, it is still very possible that you could be convicted in court.
Do You have a Miranda Defense in Your Criminal Case? Contact Philadelphia Defense Lawyer Brian Fishman to Find Out
Do you think that your statements to the police might be inadmissible in your criminal case? To find out, schedule an initial confidential consultation with Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Brian Fishman. Call 267-758-2228 to request an appointment or tell us how to reach you, and we will be in touch shortly.