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Whether or not the cops give Miranda rights, suspects need to shut up

May 18, 2011 Whether or not the cops give Miranda rights, suspects need to shut up

Bill of Rights. (From the public domain.)

Again and again, clients and potential client point out to me that the police never read them their rights, usually referencing Miranda rights. Then, I commiserate with them about all the circumstances that Miranda rights are not required, including:

– Blurts by suspects.

– When the suspect is not in police custody.

– Booking questions, even though police repeatedly and slickly transition from booking questions (e.g., about the arrestee’s home address and phone number) into telling about an interest in getting information about the alleged crime, into finessing Miranda rights in a tone of voice that attempts to make Miranda sound as inconsequential as waving a  fly away.

– During various minutes (or more) after a traffic moving violation stop, even as the cops ask questions about alcohol use and drug and weapons possession, and even when the cops bring drug-sniffing dogs.

Additionally, the absence of a Miranda rights-reading provides little relief to arrestees who were never questioned and where prosecutors and police will not try to introduce their statements into evidence.

Hopefully suspects do not believe that they must answer police questions if Miranda rights have not yet been given, and that their pre-Mirandized words will not be admissible in court. As always, my video here gives practical pointers on how to shut up with the police and to repeat the sacred mantra of “I want a lawyer”, and here is my Top Ten List for dealing with the police.

As if the foregoing situations were not bad enough, add the following to this unseemly mix: Two weeks ago, without citing to supporting legal authority, the Maryland Court of Appeals unanimously confirmed that police may require potential murder witnesses to remain at the murder scene; even put a bag on their hands to enable checking whether the witness may have been the shooter, via the presence of gunpowder residue; be taken to a police car for questioning (rather than staying put or in the suspect’s own car), and not be Mirandized. Robinson v. Maryland, ___ Md. ___ (May 6, 2011).

Robinson says:

Petitioner first argues (in the words of her brief):

Petitioner was in custody for Miranda purposes when she made her initial bare-bones statement to Officer Godfrey, because Godfrey and his superiors all communicated to her that she was not free to leave, bagged her hands, and transferred her from the refuge of her family’s vehicle to the far more coercive environment of a patrol car.

The suppression hearing court and the Court of Special Appeals rejected thisargument. So do we. When Petitioner was originally questioned at the scene, she was a potential witness. The officers attempting to obtain information about what had occurred were entitled to (1) require that potential witnesses remain at the scene, and (2) question those witnesses without advising them of their Miranda rights. The record shows that Petitioner’s freedom of movement was not restricted beyond what was required in order to take her statement, which she gave to Officer Godfrey while she and her family members were seated in her mother’s van. Robinson

Pardon me while I get a bucket.

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