The United States Supreme Court requires that a criminal defendant be advised of the rights to remain silent and request an attorney before being questioned by the police while in custody. For over 40 years these rights have been enshrined in the famous Miranda warning, an important procedural safeguard to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. The main purpose of the warnings is to protect individuals against coercive police questioning when they are unable to withstand the pressure of custodial interrogation. Under Miranda, all statements taking in such custodial settings are presumed to be compelled and inadmissible unless there is a showing that individuals have made a knowing and voluntary waiver of their Miranda rights.
As most of us know, before starting questioning, the police must advise arrested defendants that they have the right to remain silent, that anything they say can be used against them in a court of law, that they have the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if they cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for them prior to any questioning. Despite its apparent straightforward application, the Miranda rule has been significantly narrowed by recent courts decisions. For example, police officers no longer have to explicitly tell suspects that they are entitled to counsel’s presence during interrogation. Instead, what is important is whether the warning reasonably conveyed Miranda rights to a suspect. In other decisions, the Supreme Court held that a suspect’s request for a lawyer is good for only 14 days after release from custody, and that criminal suspects must unambiguously state to police that they wish to remain silent.
This means, for example, that defendant’s statement during police questioning, “I think it’d probably be a good idea for me to get an attorney,” or “Maybe I should talk to a lawyer” is an ambiguous assertion of right to counsel, which will not provide constitutional protection against self-incrimination. Keep in mind, though, that there is no requirement that police officers must ask clarifying questions to determine whether a suspect has clearly articulated his or her desire to have counsel present during questioning. Police officers are also allowed to use deceptive tactics in obtaining incriminating statements from suspects who fail to clearly state their wish to remain silent. As a result, it is critically important to consult an experience criminal defense attorney before talking to police officers.
Remember that anything you say will be used against you in the court. In fact, I have never heard of a case where the prosecution sought to use a suspect’s statements in his or her favor.
The San Diego Law Office of Domenic J. Lombardo is dedicated to defending criminal charges in state, federal, and county courts throughout San Diego. For a free consultation, contact us at (619) 232-5122, or: [email protected]
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