Florida residents who watch television shows like “NCIS” and “Blue Bloods” will likely be familiar with the wording of the Miranda warning, but they may not know that police officers are not always required to inform suspects about their constitutional rights. The Miranda warning gets its name from a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case involving an Arizona man who confessed to murder and rape after a long and coercive police interrogation. The justices ruled that his statements should have been excluded because he was not informed of his rights to remain silent and ask for an attorney.
Police officers are only required to read the Miranda warning to suspects that they have detained or taken into custody. Statements made to law enforcement by individuals who have not been arrested or detained and who are free to leave at any time may be used against them in court even if they were not informed that they could refuse to answer questions and consult with an attorney.
Preserving public safety
The courts recognize that police work is often stressful and dangerous, and they have granted an exception to the Miranda rule that allows officers to question suspects without first informing them of their rights to preserve their own safety and the safety of the public. However, the questions they ask, such as the location of a weapon, should only concern the perceived threat.
Asking for an attorney
If you are accused of committing a crime, an experienced criminal defense attorney would likely advise you to avail yourself of the rights mentioned in the Miranda warning no matter how dire your situation seems to be. This is because the evidence in criminal cases is not always as convincing as it first appears, and the information given to police officers during questioning could be offered instead to the prosecutor in return for a more favorable plea agreement.