When to Speak: Miranda Rights & Involuntary Confessions
Updated: Feb 11, 2022
When to Speak to an Officer
After an arrest you do NOT have to speak with the arresting police officer. Not only do you NOT have to speak, you should NOT speak until talking to an attorney first. You have a 5th Amendment right to remain silent through all stages of a criminal case. Your 5th amendment right is not limited to the court room, it includes the investigation, arrest, and criminal charge in court.
If you have been arrested, then the police officer has already made a determination that you are the one at fault, so the only reason an officer would question you after an arrest is to gather evidence against you. An officer could be questioning you with intent to gather information while you simply think you are having a conversation.
Your best move is to contact an attorney before speaking with a police officer to avoid providing any information that could be held against you in the future.
Your Miranda Rights
Miranda rights address your right to remain silent and serve as a warning that anything you say to an officer or public official can be held against you in court. The reading of Miranda rights was introduced with the court case Miranda v Arizona. Since the historical case, officers must read you your rights before questioning or interrogating you while you are in custody. The full rundown:
You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in court of law
You have the right to an attorney
You will be appointed an attorney if you are unable to afford one
What If You Aren’t Read Your Rights?
If you are, indeed, in custody (you are being detained and are not free to leave) and an officer begins questioning you without reading you the above rights, the necessary requirements set by Miranda v Arizona have not been met. This means the prosecution will not be able to use anything you say against your case in a court of law in the future. However, any statements that you give voluntary without prompting by the officer will still be admissible in court, which you should consider before you speak with the arresting officer.
Coerced and Involuntary Confessions
All questioning, whether part of an interrogation or in a courtroom, must not interfere with the person in question’s ability to exercise free will. If a confession is coerced, then whatever they confess to is seen as involuntary and will not be admissible in court.
Confessions are not considered to be freely given if:
Admission of guilt is induced by fear, threat, torture, or any type of promise
If the admission of guilt is discovered to be a false confession induced by coercion, incompetency, or mental disorder
Your lawyer can file a motion to contest the voluntariness of your confession and present your testimony and the testimony of other witnesses at a hearing before the judge. Your attorney can also cross-examine the police officers who took your confession and challenge their testimony. Your attorney might be able to uncover a video or audio tape of the questioning that would prove that you were forced to make certain admissions. If you were charged with a federal crime and feel that you were coerced into giving a false confession, it is important to seek legal representation right away.