Andrew Delke

When Are Miranda Warnings Required?

We have all watched law enforcement officers read someone their “Miranda” rights during an arrest or subsequent interview on a TV show or in a movie. You may go through your entire life without ever hearing those warnings in real life; however, if you are ever in a situation where the warnings apply it is in your best interest to know that and to understand your rights. With that in mind, a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains when Miranda warnings are required.

What Are Miranda Warnings?

Andrew DelkeIn the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona, the court analyzed and evaluated four different cases involving custodial interrogations. In each case, a defendant was interrogated in a separate room where the defendant was cut off from the outside world and was not given a full and effective advisement of his rights prior to being asked questions. Each defendant made a self-incriminating statement during the interrogation.

Ultimately, the court in Miranda held that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects someone accused of a crime from self-incrimination, includes protections for suspects who have been arrested for a crime. Specifically, the court held that when a suspect is arrested, the suspect must be advised of all the following:

  • The suspect has a right to remain silent.
  • That anything a suspect says can be used against him or her in a court of law.
  • That a suspect has the right to an attorney.

When Must Miranda Warning Be Given?

At this point, a law enforcement officer’s duty to give Miranda warnings is well established; however, precisely when that duty kicks in remains less clear. Everyone agrees that once a suspect has been arrested and accused of a committing a criminal offense, the suspect must be advised of his/her Miranda rights before questioning begins. Conversely, if someone is not even a suspect, much less under arrest, a law enforcement officer is not required to give that person Miranda warnings before asking a question. The grey area lies somewhere in between those extremes.

After several decades of trying to refine the duty to provide Miranda warnings, the consensus is that a law enforcement officer must give someone Miranda warnings once the suspect is in custody, whether formal arrest has been made yet or not. While that helps, it still fails to completely clear up the issue because now we must define “in custody.” To do that, courts must consider several factors without any single factor being determinative. The question a court must consider is whether, taken together, the factors considered would make a reasonable person believe that he or she was not free to leave or to stop the questioning. Factors considered when trying to decide if someone was “in custody” and, therefore, entitled to be given a Miranda warning, include:

  • Whether the individual was told that he/she was free to leave.
  • Whether he/she had unrestrained freedom during the course of the interview.
  • Whether the suspect contacted the agents, or the agents approached the suspect at the beginning of the interview.
  • Whether strong-arm or deceptive practices were utilized by the agents.
  • Whether the atmosphere of the interview was “police dominated.” 
  • Whether the suspect was formally arrested at the conclusion of the interview.

What Happens If I Am Not Given My Miranda Warnings?

This is also a source of great confusion for people who are facing criminal charges. The fact that a law enforcement officer did not give you your Miranda warnings is only relevant if that officer questioned you and you made incriminating statements. If the law enforcement officer doesn’t ask you anything more than identifying questions, for example, no Miranda warnings were needed. If you were questioned, but you said nothing incriminating, the lack of Miranda warning is equally irrelevant. If, however, you were in custody, a law enforcement officer questioned you and you gave incriminating answers without first being read your Miranda rights, your answers will likely be excluded from being introduced at trial because your Constitutional rights were violated.

Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer 

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the tram today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Stan Bennett