When is a Miranda Warning Required?

The Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be compelled to be a witness against themselves in a criminal case. In lay mans terms, the Fifth Amendment is the right against self-incrimination. Per a 1966 United States Supreme Court decision, a Miranda warning is required only for custodial interrogations. Let’s break this down a bit.

To begin with, the Miranda warning itself:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

While these should be the words read to a person when the warning is required, the Courts allow minimal leeway in going off-script. It’s at this point that a defendant can say they choose not to speak with law enforcement or that they demand an attorney present. We recommend that you always exercise your right to an attorney whenever you interact with officers. Say those four magic words: I. Need. My. Attorney. And call us immediately.

The term ‘custodial interrogation’ is broken down to two parts – custody and interrogation. Custody can be the obvious – when police tell the defendant that he or she is under arrest. Most of the time, though, it’s not this easy. Miranda is required when someone is deprived of his or her freedom of action in any significant way – i.e. the functional equivalent of being in custody. Courts look to all the circumstances in determining whether a reasonable person in the place of the detainee would believe that he or she was in custody.

Minnesota Courts have created six factors to start its analysis:

  1. police interviewing the suspect at the police station;
  2. the officer telling the individual that he or she is the prime suspect;
  3. officers restraining the suspect’s freedom;
  4. the suspect making a significantly incriminating statement;
  5. the presence of multiple officers; and
  6. a gun pointing at the suspect.

As mentioned before, though, the courts must look at all the circumstances. Most cases do not fit neatly into these six factors and require a well-reasoned approach.

Next, interrogation under Miranda is “express questioning” or “any words or actions on the part of police . . . that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect.” Again, express questioning while at a police station like you see on TV shows is an easy analysis. But, sometimes, cops take advantage of a situation – like during transport of the arrested individual to the jail – by engaging in conversation that is intended to elicit incriminating information from the suspect.

Violations lead to the suppression of any statements after when the Miranda warning should have been given. Sometimes, this can be key statements that are absolutely critical to the State’s case or even admissions that leads to the discovery of key evidence in the case. If you believe that law enforcement has violating the Fifth Amendment Miranda warning requirement, get an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight on your behalf.