The police didn’t read me my Miranda rights! Can I have my case dismissed?

5th Amendment
Just read me my rights, or drop my case.

T.V. is usually the best way to “learn” everything you need to know about the law.  Before law school, I used the T.V. for my legal knowledge, too.  I think that’s why everybody has a favorite legal show.  Mine was always Miami Vice.   Don’t deny that you have a favorite.  Law & Order, Dog the Bounty Hunter,  Matlock, L.A. Law… whatever.  Everybody has one.

Matt Haiduk is "Mattlock"
I put the “Matt” in “Matlock”.

Thankfully those shows are completely accurate on the law.  If they weren’t, a whole bunch of people might have the wrong idea.  By a “whole bunch” I mean all of us who watch the law shows.  No need to go to law school when you pick up everything you need from an episode of Ally McBeal, right?

One area the legal T.V. shows must not cover is what they call “Miranda” warnings. Too many people seem confused about them.  If you’re not sure what Miranda warnings are, they’re the “rights” people presume the police will read when arresting somebody.  I say “presume” because people are always saying that “the police never read me my rights,” as though the police are required to do so.  The fact that a huge number of people believe this presumption is what leads me to believe  Night Court didn’t adequately teach us about Miranda.  Let’s clear up the issue Night Court was too soft to tackle, shall we?

The first thing you need to know is that your case is not going to be dismissed because the police didn’t read you your rights.  What will happen (what the law calls “your remedy”) is that certain statements might not be allowed to come in at trial.  See, if you said things to the police that they’re trying to use against you, that’s usually called a “confession.”  And if “confessing” to a crime meant the charges would be dropped… well, that would make for a weird world.

So, before we even talk about Miranda warnings, we need to know if you talked to the police.  Did you make any statement to the police? Yes?  This isn’t going to be easy, but I’ll try to forget that you clearly haven’t been listening to me (or this guy, this guy, or this guy).  If you were listening and you didn’t make a statement, though, Miranda doesn’t really matter.  If that applies to you, I’m awarding you a gold star for following my previous posts (and that of this guy, and this guy and this guy <—– all new guys, by the way).

Ok, you talked?  Is the prosecutor going to try and use that statement against you at trial?  If not, it doesn’t really matter, either.  Since the “remedy” would be to keep the statements out of trial, consider a prosecutor’s not intending to bring them up a “mission accomplished.”  Nice work!

Now, have you been “arrested” by the police prior to making the statement?  If not, it also doesn’t really matter.  Cops are allowed to talk to you in the same situations that normal people can.  If they just happen to wander upon your stranded car, they can ask you questions.  The rights only come into play once they start acting like police investigating crimes and use their “police-ness” against you.

Finally, were your statements the result of the police asking you questions or interrogating you?  If not, Miranda doesn’t really matter.  There’s  nothing that requires the police to read you your rights when you’re happily babbling your guilt for no reason- even if it’s the 16 cans of Hamms making you talk.  And, really, think about it for a minute. If talking to the police when they’re asking you questions is a bad idea, what do you think about talking to them when they’re not even asking you questions?  It hurts me to even ponder.  It should hurt you, too.

So, you went ahead and talked to the police?  You talked to them after you were arrested, only because the police were interrogating you, and the prosecutor is going to use your words against you? Now we’re getting somewhere.

Like I said, if the police didn’t read you your rights when they should have, your statements should not come in at trial.  That doesn’t mean the prosecutor will dismiss your case.  Unless, that is, there is no evidence other than your confession– which means there would have been no evidence if you’d have just listened to me in the past (or listened to this guy, this guy or this guy <—– do you really think I can’t find 3 more links?).

So, there you have it.  If the police didn’t read you your rights… Wait.  Why did you talk to the police, again?

Matt Haiduk is a veteran criminal defense lawyer with offices in Kane and McHenry Counties, Illinois.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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