November 24, 2020
You will recall from high school civics (and any number of television crime dramas) that, before authorities may engage in the custodial interrogation of a suspect, that individual must be first advised of his Miranda rights. So, if (1) the person is in custody and (2) the person is being interrogated, he must be given his or her Miranda rights before questioning can commence. An easy way around this is simply to tell the suspect that he’s free to leave. Since he’s not in custody, he does not have to be Mirandized.
In any event, if the suspect is in custody and is being interrogated, and the police do not first advise him of his Miranda rights, any statement that the suspect makes is likely to be suppressed from evidence.
That’s exactly what a Michigan court did. In that case, the police advised Laricca Mathews, a murder suspect, that she had the right to a lawyer, but they did not tell her that she was entitled to have a lawyer present during questioning. Mathews then admitted to shooting her boyfriend. The trial court suppressed Mathews’ statements on the grounds that the warning was defective. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, and the state’s highest court then declined to consider the matter further.
Prosecutors recently petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the matter. The Court has not yet indicated whether it will grant certiorari. And it will be interesting to see whether the newly-constituted Court wants to take another step at chipping away at Miranda.
But look, it’s easy: Every police department has (or should have) a card or a sheet which lists the Miranda rights on it. Just read the darn thing.