Imagine a country where police hold all the power, yet citizens have no power. That world, for some, may not be so unimaginable. If you have found yourself on the other side of contact with police officers in Kittitas County or Yakima County, you know you can often experience that there are laws in this country meant to protect you from illegal police questioning. We also know, however, that those laws are often violated.
Whether a violation of your Miranda rights is intentional or accidental, you can often use the violation in your defense. Any good criminal defense lawyer in Washington will identify whether your Miranda rights were violated, and then use that information to build a solid defense. At Law Office of Tony Swartz, Tony takes your constitutional rights seriously. Contact him at 509-293-7593 to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about how to build a strong defense for your DUI case in Ellensburg or Yakima.
What Constitutes Miranda Rights in Washington?
U.S. citizens have certain constitutional rights that protect them when interacting with the police and criminal justice system, and this is true wherever you are in the United States. These rights are known as Miranda rights, which were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona. 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Many people probably know about them from popular TV shows or action movies but may not know exactly what these rights mean.
Anyone who has been taken into custody and interrogated by the police must first be read their Miranda rights. The reading of your Miranda rights is known as a ‘Miranda warning' because the police are “warning” you of your constitutional:
- Right to remain silent, because anything you say can be used against in court
- Right to a lawyer, even if you cannot afford the services of a private attorney
These rights, born out of the 5th and 6th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, are in place to ensure equal protection under the law. Violation of Miranda rights may be reason enough to suppress any incriminating evidence against you so long as that evidence was obtained from the violation. Motions to suppress or motions to exclude evidence flowing from a Miranda Rights violation can be a critical part of your defense. In fact, getting charges dismissed can result from the finding that Miranda rights were violated in Washington.
What Crimes in Washington Require Miranda Warnings?
Miranda warnings are applicable whenever a person is in police custody for any alleged criminal activity or offense. These include crimes like:
- DUI cases
- Physical control cases
- Drug crimes
- Theft crimes
- Domestic violence
- Property crimes
Are there Exceptions When Miranda Warnings Are Not Required?
There are exceptions to Miranda warnings, and these exceptions apply to when police must give Miranda warnings and when evidence can be excluded for Miranda warning violations. Many people misunderstand when Miranda warnings are required because this area of the law is very hard to understand.
Exceptions to When Police Must Give the Miranda Warnings
A few situations exist where the police are not required to read a person the Miranda warnings. These situations include when the officers are:
- conducting field sobriety tests
- questioning someone for public safety purposes
- asking standard booking questions, like your name and address
- using an informant to talk to a person while incarcerated
- stopping a vehicle for a traffic violation.
Exceptions to When Violations Will Not Result in Exclusion of Evidence
As mentioned, when there's a Miranda warning violation, any evidence obtained from the violation can typically be excluded as evidence. There are, however, a few important exceptions.
- Public safety. When the police ask questions for the purpose of public safety and discover any evidence of alleged criminal activity, it can be admitted as evidence against the alleged offender.
- Witnesses. When the police question a suspect, albeit unlawfully, and identify a potential witness, that witness may be allowed to testify at trial.
- Tangible evidence. When the police question a suspect, albeit unlawfully, and discover tangible evidence, that evidence can often be admitted to court.
- Inevitable discovery. When the police question a suspect, albeit unlawfully, and tangible evidence is discovered, that evidence may still be admissible if it would have been discovered without questioning the suspect.
Determining if Miranda Rights Were Violated in Washington
You always have the right against compelled self-incrimination and the right to a criminal lawyer. Miranda requires that people be informed of these rights should they be:
- In police custody, and
- Subjected to interrogation.
If you were taken into custody and interrogated about criminal activity without being “Mirandized” (read your Miranda rights), any evidence provided during that interrogation may be excluded from court. Knowing what these terms mean can help you understand whether your Miranda rights were violated.
- Custody means a reasonable person would think they were in custody if they were in the same situation. If you are held against your will, you likely have been taken into custody. For example, being put into the back of a police car typically means you are in the custody of the police. This is complicated though, because you're not free to leave during field sobriety tests, but Washington law also says police are not required to read Miranda rights to you in this scenario.
- Subjected to interrogation means the police ask questions specifically intended to elicit incriminating statements. For example, asking why you did it or where you hid a stolen item are questions that are subjecting you to an interrogation.
One word of caution: your words can still haunt you even if you were able to prove your Miranda rights were violated and, as a result, were able to suppress the evidence flowing from that violation. At trial, incriminating statements can be used to impeach you. This means your statements can be used to show you lied or are not fully telling the truth while on the stand.
Can I Talk to the Police?
It is usually not advisable to talk to the police without the presence of an attorney. Some people, however, still want to talk. Miranda rights can be waived. Just remember: if a police officer delivers a Miranda warning, but you continue to talk, that information can be used against you as evidence in court.
Why Wasn't I Read My Miranda Rights?
You may not have been read Miranda rights if you were not being taken into custody to be interrogated or put under arrest.
The police can ask questions so long as they are not incriminating. Also, there are exceptions. For example, traffic stops are not custodial. The police can pull you over for a traffic stop, and if that leads to a suspicion of intoxicated driving, the police can ask questions without reading your Miranda rights or have you do field sobriety tests without reading rights to you, for example.
Your Miranda rights (and a violation of these rights) depend on the exact circumstances of your encounter with the police. This is exactly why it is important to seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney in Kittitas County or Yakima County.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in Kittitas County or Yakima County Today
When your Miranda rights are violated, your attorney can use that to file motions to suppress evidence or dismiss the case - remember though, it all depends on the facts and circumstances. This can be a critical component of your defense strategy.
At Law Office of Tony Swartz, Tony is an experienced attorney and he knows what to look for. He can file motions to exclude evidence when it's applicable. Contact Tony today at 509-293-7593 or fill out the online form to schedule a free consultation.