A criminal prosecution in California requires evidence, which often includes interrogation of one or more suspects who wind up facing criminal charges. Those interrogations require the individuals being questioned to fully understand their rights via the Miranda process, which ensures that potential defendants fully understand their rights to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination, among others. Yet about 80% of defendants waive their Miranda rights, often at their own peril.
Two types of interrogations
An interrogation in a criminal defense case starts with either custodial or non-custodial questioning and often includes both. The Miranda process is critically important to ensure defendant’s rights at this point. Custodial questioning happens while you are in police custody but not necessarily under arrest. You could be in the back of a police car or otherwise held for questioning but outside of a jailhouse or police station. Non-custodial questioning happens outside of police custody, including on the side of the road during a traffic stop.
Miranda rights apply at all times
No matter where the questioning happens, the defendant always has the right to remain silent and should exercise that right. That is especially true if no legal counsel is available when the police or prosecutors want to interrogate the defendant. Even when a defense attorney is present, the defendant does not have to make any statements or provide any information.
Exceptions for public safety
If an issue arises that might pose an imminent threat to public safety, the Miranda process does not necessarily apply. A prior New York criminal case hinged on whether police could demand that a suspect tell them where an incriminating firearm was located inside a grocery store. Police found an empty holster and wanted to secure the firearm. The suspect admitted that he had hidden the firearm inside the store, which police retrieved. The suspect later argued that his Miranda rights were violated.
Those accused of a crime have certain protections under the law to ensure a fair legal process. If you are facing charges or police questioning, an experienced criminal law attorney may help you to better understand your Miranda rights and other protections.