In some thirty years of criminal law practice I have had the opportunity to
represent individuals accused of everything from a simple speeding ticket to capital murder. Practicing in municipal, state and federal courts throughout Ohio, I have been exposed to and litigated a large variety of criminal law issues. In this and upcoming blogs, I will comment upon issues which routinely confront individuals suspected of or accused of criminal wrongdoing.

When following news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, I heard a great deal of commentary about whether law enforcement should have Mirandized Dzhokhar Tsarnaev following his apprehension. Probably fifty percent of the time, new clients come to my office following arrest, or confrontation with law enforcement, and they immediately proclaim that they were not Mirandized. They, like most individuals, are under the misconception that a failure to Mirandize them will somehow form the basis for a dismissal of their case.

Miranda – The Right to Remain Silent and Right to Counsel

The basic tenet of the Miranda decision is that an individual must be warned about their right to remain silent and right to counsel during a custodial interrogation. Failure of law enforcement to administer Miranda warnings prior to such interrogation will render any statements made inadmissible at trial.

What Is a Custodial Interrogation?

A custodial interrogation occurs when one is under arrest or when their liberty is restrained in any significant way. In determining whether one’s liberty was restrained, courts look to whether a reasonable person would have believed that they were free to leave. This is determined on a case-by-case basis. When an individual makes no statements, Miranda has no impact upon them. When statements are made in a non-custodial setting, Miranda warnings are not required.

Miranda Is Important but not Everything

Moreover, even in situations where an individual’s statements to police are “thrown out” by a court due to a failure to properly Mirandize them, such individuals can still be prosecuted based upon other evidence collected and derived in the case. Miranda is an important safeguard in any criminal interrogation and prosecution.

However, it is not the pathway to a dismissal or the proverbial “get-out-of-jail-free” card that many people envision.