By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
I’m often told by people that, “they didn’t read me my Miranda warnings.” Sometimes this is important and sometimes it is not.
What Are Miranda Warnings?
Miranda refers to a 1960’s U.S. Supreme Court case where a conviction was reversed because the police did not advise a Defendant of his rights prior to getting confessions for several offenses. I’ll spare you the legal treatise on the topic but just understand it’s a highly complicated area of law.
The Significance of Miranda Warnings
Miranda violations can result in excluded statements, admissions or confessions a person may make while in custody.
Your right to remain silent and your right to a lawyer are generally triggered when you are in “custodial interrogation” and you are being questioned by the police or other governmental agency. Custodial interrogation is too complicated to go over in this brief article but I will say that a typical traffic stop will not qualify as custodial interrogation under the current law in Texas.
Texas has codified Miranda in Article 38.22 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. That statute has additional protections above and beyond what Miranda required. An example of an additional protection is that to be used, an oral confession must be made in the presence of some sort of electronic recording device.
To know how significant a Miranda violation is depends on the facts of the case.
A hypothetical Miranda violation occurs where someone is handcuffed in the police station under a spotlight with interrogators and admits to a crime. In that situation, failure to Mirandize someone might result in the confession being tossed-out by a Court.
Obviously real life doesn’t work that way and a Miranda violation may be more subtle or less significant.
Take a DWI for example. Most of the State’s case will be conduct, breath, and performance on field sobriety tests. These things are considered “non-testimonial.”
Even if the police violate Miranda and the person confesses to having consumed alcohol but doesn’t believe they’re drunk — the Miranda violation will have little, if any, impact on the outcome.
Contrast a drug possession case. In those cases, sometimes the only evidence someone was in possession of contraband such as marijuana are statements or confessions after the drugs are found. If an officer violates Miranda before a confession is given, the violation may very well change the outcome of the case.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.