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When does law enforcement have to give Miranda warnings?

When St. Louis residents are accused of doing something wrong, often times their first instinct is to talk through the situation and explain any misunderstanding that may have occurred. There may be nothing wrong with this when the situation involves family, friends or work acquaintances, but when the alleged wrongdoing happens to be a criminal charge, individuals' instinct to speak with law enforcement to explain the situation can land them in even more trouble.

For instance, last week this blog discussed how individuals' volunteering of information can be used against them later when they are facing charges for sex crimes. This may be true even if the statement did not appear to be incriminating at the time it was made.

This is not always the case, however. Individuals may be able to mount a defense to the use of their own statements being used against them if proper procedures were not followed.

One key issue is whether an individual was advised of his or her Miranda rights. These rights include the right to remain silent and the right to consult with a lawyer and have a lawyer present during any interrogation.

While many individuals are familiar with Miranda warnings from television shows and movies, they may be less aware that law enforcement is not always required to provide the warnings to a suspect. In order for the warning to be given, a person has to be in police custody. Accordingly, if the person is not in custody, officers may be able to discuss issues with the person without first advising them of their rights.

In addition, the person has to be under interrogation from law enforcement for the warnings to apply. This typically means the officer must be asking questions about the crime, rather than simply asking the person for identification. Accordingly, while statements that are made in the absence of Miranda warnings may be excluded from evidence, these prerequisites must first be met for a violation to have occurred.

Source: Findlaw, "Miranda warnings and police questioning," accessed on March 27, 2015

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