The Ins And Outs Of Your Miranda Rights In Los Angeles County
For over twenty-five years now, I've been dealing with the Miranda issue as it relates to people's statement and trying to keep people's statements out of trials, preliminary hearings and other court activities as they relate to criminal cases. There is some action there as far as Miranda goes, but since the Miranda ruling was passed down by the courts, its power and strength from a defense standpoint has waned significantly over the years as people's statements are being used against them across LA county.
The biggest problem with these Miranda issues is that people's statements, as it relates to criminal cases, is typically the most powerful evidence that the prosecutors can have. Unless they've got a video of the person committing the crime, someone admitting or saying something that's incriminating related to their criminal case is a huge piece of evidence for the prosecutors and very difficult for defendants to get around when it comes to the defense of their cases.
Can My Case Be Dismissed For A Miranda Rights Violation?
This is a big question I've been asked many, many times over the years, and the answer is yes, it possibly could, depending on the circumstances of the case. What people don't understand is that there's not some catch-all that if they've violated your Miranda rights and didn't read you the Miranda warnings related to your criminal case, then somehow that automatically gets your case dismissed.
That's just simply not true and any lawyer, or anybody saying that, just doesn't know what they're talking about and doesn't understand the Miranda rights. What Miranda is really doing is, it's saying listen, if you're in custody and the police are asking you questions that can incriminate you, then you have to have your Miranda rights read to you.
If they're not read to you and they continue to question you while you're in custody and they get some incriminating statement, then later on in a court proceeding, like a trial for example, that statement is not going to be able to be used against you. It doesn't dismiss the case though.
They could have other evidence against you and sometimes the statements are worthless anyway, either way – it's you denying things or saying something that doesn't really have any relevance to whether you're innocent or guilty.
You Must be in Custody
So, if you read that carefully, first you have to be in custody. If you're not in custody, then the Miranda rights don't apply. A lot of times the police will come up to you – either they pulled you over or they come up to you on the street or they run into you under some circumstances and they are investigating a crime and they start asking you some questions.
All right, there's nothing wrong with that. Miranda rights are not triggered under that scenario. The only time in that scenario where they could be triggered is if a reasonable person wouldn't feel free to leave. If the police come up to you on the streets and pull their guns and say, hey hold it – obviously, now you're arguably in custody.
This is a factual issue that ultimately a judge will determine. Juries do not determine Miranda rights violations. Only judges do.
If you spontaneously say something to the police while they are dealing with you – you just blurt some stuff out – they can use that against you. That's your problem. You don't say things to the police if you're in a situation where you are being investigated for a crime. That's why all lawyers that know what they are talking about, they are going to tell you to be quiet.
Police Must be Asking Questions
Another issue that comes up if you read the first opening paragraph about Miranda rights carefully is that in addition to being in custody, the police are going to be having to ask you questions.
So, if they're not asking you questions, then your Miranda right typically are not triggered. Now there are scenarios where they're doing to saying some things that could be reasonably viewed as them trying to get you to say something.
The old case that comes up all the time, it's taught in law schools and mentioned in order to illustrate this point is that somebody committed a shooting and killed a person and the gun is hidden and the police want to find out where the shotgun is.
So, they've got the guy in the back of the police car and they basically – I'm paraphrasing now – say something to the effect – listen, wouldn't it be horrible if some poor child got ahold of that gun out there?
Why don't you just tell us where it is, and of course the person feels bad and tells them where the gun is. Now that's questioning reasonably designed to get some sort of an incriminating response. So, the guys in custody so now you can make the Miranda argument that that statement should not be able to be used against him because he was in custody.
They ask him a question reasonably designed to incriminate himself and he incriminated himself without reading the Miranda rights, so in theory, you should be able to keep that statement out.
How Is A Miranda Violation Dealt With In The Los Angeles Courts?
Basically, your attorney can either object to any statements coming in against you and try to challenge it during a preliminary hearing for example or some other hearing. Another way is your attorney can file a motion and have a hearing as to whether or not any of your statements can come in.
Then the prosecutors will call the police who got those statements or any witnesses who got those statements, and then the issues are going to be, were you in custody and were you asked questions and were you read your Miranda rights?
If you were in custody and you're asked direct questions that could incriminate you and you didn't get your Miranda rights, then the statements can't be used against you. But they can still prosecute you for the crime if they have other evidence besides those statements in order to attempt to convict you of whatever crime they are charging you with.
I've done a lot of these Miranda hearings over the years and you have to cross-examine the police and you're arguing that the person was in custody. The police are going to try to claim, oh no, the person was just detained, or we were just asking him a few questions in an investigatory stop for example, so they really try to split hairs and say, no the person wasn't in custody and therefore we didn't have to read them their Miranda rights.
Or, the issue becomes, well the person just spontaneously blurted out a bunch of stuff. We didn't ask him any questions. So, there's a lot of different issues that can come up when it comes to these Miranda violations and how they are dealt with in the criminal courts.