A lot of clients at the Marc Lopez Law Firm want to know if we can get their criminal charges dismissed because the arresting officer failed to recite the Miranda warning. Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t a straightforward yes or no. It requires a deeper understanding of what the Miranda warning is and when it applies to your case.

The Miranda warning as we know it comes from the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona, where the U.S. Supreme Court held that criminal defendants must be advised of their right to remain silent.

According to Miranda, under the Fifth Amendment, statements made during a custodial police interrogation are only admissible at trial if the defendant has been advised of their right to remain silent and contact an attorney. If the defendant understands these rights and then voluntarily waives them, only then can officers take statements that will remain admissible at trial.

The Miranda warning is there to protect and preserve the Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination. We’re referring here to the clause that states no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” No one can be compelled under U.S. law to testify against themselves, and the Miranda warning is required so that every suspect in police custody can be made aware of this fact.

Miranda applies whenever a person is in police custody and subject to interrogation. A number of cases following Miranda v. Arizona have further refined these points, but here’s the gist: A person is in custody when police have deprived them of their freedom of movement. The way we try to measure this is to ask, Would a reasonable person in this situation feel as though they were free to walk away from this encounter with law enforcement?

This standard is most often applied when police are still in the initial stages of investigating a crime. In most cases, once the handcuffs come out, it’s pretty clear that the person is being taken into custody and is no longer free to leave.

It’s important to note that a routine traffic stop is not custodial. In the 1984 case of Berkemer v. McCarty, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified that roadside questioning during a routine traffic stop is not a custodial interrogation. Because traffic stops are normally brief and the driver does not expect to be taken into custody, police questioning in this context does not require that a Miranda warning be given.

A traffic stop, however, may transition into a custodial interrogation if the officer determines that a crime might be in progress. Once the stop becomes custodial, the officer should provide the Miranda warning and advise the detainee of their right against self-incrimination.

This applies to more than just traffic stops. Any police encounter can quickly shift into a custodial interrogation, depending on the context and the specific details. Once a person is no longer free to leave, the officer should recite the Miranda warning.

If you’ve been charged with a crime, it’s important to consult with an experienced defense attorney to see if any admissions you may have made while in custody can be suppressed. Every rule has exceptions, and the attorneys at the Marc Lopez Law Firm can walk you through the analysis.

The short answer to our original question is, No, a failure by the officer to advise you of your Miranda rights does not trigger an automatic dismissal of all charges. The longer answer, however, is that a failure to Mirandize may result in certain statements being inadmissible, and in that event, it’s worth a closer look from your attorney. If you have questions about statements that may have been made in police custody, call the Marc Lopez Law Firm at 317-632-3642 and remember—always plead the 5th!