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The misunderstanding of Miranda

Most people in Virginia have heard the advice involving the Miranda warning. One is not to speak to law enforcement officers when under suspicion or officers are asking questions. Many people may forget this sage advice when under the stress of questioning.

However, it is critical to the strength of a person’s defense later that he or she not have made statements that can later be evidence of guilt. A factually innocent person can later unexpectedly find him or herself in the shoes of a defendant. So, what is this thing called a Miranda warning?

Miranda warning

The Miranda warning is a statement the law requires authorities to make to a person they are interacting with at a particular time. It tells the person he or she has the right to remain silent and not answer their questions. It reminds the detained he or she has the right to an attorney as well.

Some people confuse the requirements of the Miranda warning to mean that if they do not receive the warning, the authorities must drop the charges. This is inaccurate. Rather, if they do not give the warning when due, the defendant may have a basis on which to make a motion to suppress any statements made after the time the Miranda warning was due. Statements made earlier in time, however, are free game.

The timing of the Miranda requirement

Many people, in the heat of the moment, have no idea when the warning is due. In fact, a person has no right to a Miranda warning prior to being in custody or being the subject of a custodial interrogation.

As such, generally, all the questions made to a person by an officer who comes to the person’s house are not due a warning. Any statements made when speaking to an officer out and about town are not due a Miranda. If a person concedes to an officer’s request to come to the police station to answer some questions, there is typically no requirement for Miranda. This is because the person is free to leave, not detained and is not in custody. All such statements would generally be admissible without an argument for suppression.

Because Miranda warnings do not occur for questioning and information gathering during an investigation, any statements made can come back to haunt the speaker. As such, it may be wise to not answer questions without the advice or presence of a criminal defense lawyer.

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