What is Miranda? How does it apply to your rights? How does it apply to your case? How important is Miranda? These are the questions that we get on a regular basis. Your Miranda rights are one of the most important rights that you carry with you as a person in this country. Let’s discuss why.
Miranda is an ever increasingly important issue in the court system that only continues to get more and more complex since its original decision in 1966. It is important that you and your criminal defense lawyer understand this complex issue. In order to do that, we need to look at the case law as well as what constitutes a valid waiver of those rights. Many people believe they understand the application of these rights when in fact they do not. This can be one of the most important things to aid you in your own defense. Fully understanding it can be hard but applying it can be even harder.
Miranda, a Discussion
People v. Clayton was a ruling issued by the Supreme Court in 2009. In the final decision, it was stated – if a waiver of Miranda is knowing, intelligent, and voluntary then it is valid. Before we go into what that means, let’s talk about the facts of the case.
Witnesses attending a house party contacted police to report that someone had fled the scene after stabbing two people at the party. Witnesses stated that he (the suspect) fled in a white Ford Explorer and might have the last name, Clayton. The report was broadcasted to all on-duty officers. Shortly after, a patrol officer spotted a white Ford Explorer with a license plate registered to an owner with the last name Clayton. The officer pulled the vehicle over, identified the driver as twenty-year-old Brian Clayton, and observed blood on Clayton’s hands and clothes.
The officer arrested Clayton and advised him of his Miranda rights, reading them verbatim from a “Miranda Card.” Clayton stated that he understood his rights and wanted to talk to police. The police took no other statements from him and didn’t ask any questions until they got to the police station. At the police station, Clayton was asked again if he had been advised of his Miranda rights. Although Clayton stated that he had been so advised, detectives again advised him of his rights. After Clayton again waived these rights and stating that he understood this waiver, detectives presented a written copy of the Miranda rights for Clayton to sign. Clayton moved to sign the paper and then hesitated, asking “what do you mean ‘talk to us?’” and again stating “I mean I have no problem, it’s just, you said this could be used against me in court.” Detectives stated that it was his chance to tell his side of the story. Clayton asked if he could call his mother to “ask her if I should sign yes or no.” Detectives responded that they did not have a telephone and that the decision was up to him and him alone. Subsequently, Clayton signed the document and made a number of incriminating statements. The officers then charged Clayton with two counts of first-degree assault and four counts of a violent crime.
It is not uncommon for people to think that if they just talk to the police they can figure the situation out and everything will be fine. Too often are people sucked into the trap of talking to officers because they think that if they don’t talk, they automatically look guilty. However, it is this kind of thinking that leads people to make incriminating statements that end up costing them.
Colorado Miranda Rights Law
In order to determine the validity of the Miranda waiver a “two part step analysis” must be made.
- The judge must determine whether the defendant was adequately warned of his privilege against self-incrimination and his right to counsel; and
- The judge must determine whether the defendant knowingly, validly and voluntarily waived these rights.
It is important to know that the police have no obligation to inform a suspect of the possible subjects of an interrogation or the facts and circumstances which may be pertinent to his or her decision to talk to the police. It is also important to know that detectives can use any amount of deception to elicit a confession from you, i.e. they can lie and it is not illegal.
A waiver is considered involuntary if the police force the waiver of your rights through actual coercive conduct. In order to be involuntary, there must be coercive governmental conduct, whether physical or psychological and only if this played a significant role in inducing the defendant to make the confession or statements. So, the officers can lie to you but they can not force you to give up your rights. They can say what ever they want to persuade you but you are ultimately the one that decides to give up your rights or to exercise them to your benefit.
What does involuntary mean?
The police are not interested in what is best for you. They are not there to make sure you make the right choice. Miranda only protects you against government coercion. It is in your best interest not to talk to police without an attorney present. The police have no restrictions when it comes to getting a confession. Miranda only protects defendants against government coercion leading them to surrender rights that are protected by the Fifth Amendment; it goes no further than that.
Contact an attorney if you think your rights were violated. If the police bring you to the police station for questioning and they won’t tell you what it is about until you waive your rights, do not waive them and contact a lawyer immediately. This is not legal advice, consult an attorney about your unique situation. The less you say to police the better an attorney can aid in your defense.
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By Shannon Lynch