Everyone who has watched a police TV show is familiar with Miranda rights. They are usually recited similar to:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for your. You have a right to exercise these rights at any time. Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?
This article provides some basic information about Miranda, and how it fits into the context of the defense of a South Carolina misdemeanor or felony charge.
What does Miranda even mean?
So what does this all really mean? Miranda has to do with whether or not answers to police questions that someone made after they were in police custody can be repeated later in court.
Miranda rights only involve answers to police questions. It is not relevant to questions submitted by other people (such as family members, co-workers, victims, etc.). It is also not relevant to voluntary statements or things that someone just blurted out.
Miranda rights also only involve situations where someone is in police custody or has been arrested. This means that a reasonable person who have to believe that they were not free to leave or had been arrested. So if someone has been handcuffed and put in the back of a patrol car a court will almost always find that Miranda rights were implicated. But if the police were to just walk up to someone who was free to leave and asked them a simple question that likely wouldn't be enough.
In the law there are the rules, and then exceptions and then exceptions to exceptions. Miranda is no different. Legally and under most circumstances a routine traffic stop is not considered custody for Miranda purposes. So when the cop asks "Do you know how fast you were going?" your answer can be repeated even if you weren't read your rights first.
What kinds of cases does Miranda apply to?
Really everything except for simple traffic offenses. Miranda rights are available to people charged with misdemeanors and felonies. Juveniles have the same rights. So the same rights apply to a murder suspect as it does to a housewife arrested for CDV, or a college student charged with shoplifting. But with only one exception, police do not have to read Miranda rights in order to make a proper or a valid arrest.
There is One Charge Where Miranda is Required
The only criminal charge in South Carolina where police must read a suspect their Miranda rights is DUI. In most cases the Miranda advisement has to be provided on the side of the road and recorded by the officer's dash-cam. If Miranda wasn't given, or if the recorded wasn't preserved, then a DUI charge may be dismissed after a proper objection and motion is made.
Do the police not have to read people their rights?
As discussed earlier, Miranda only has to do with whether or not answers to police questions submitted after someone was in police custody can be repeated later in court. Many times there is enough evidence to support an arrest and a court conviction without relying on confessions, or other statements against self-interest that a defendant might make.
If there was a Miranda violation, that is police questioning someone in custody without first reading their rights, then answers the defendant gave couldn't be used to later to justify a legal reason for an arrest or a conviction in court.
How does a lawyer use Miranda to make a legal defense?
As a criminal defense attorney my role is to break a case down into the required legal elements to determine how it can most effectively be challenged. In some cases Miranda isn't implicated at all (for example there was no police questioning at all). But in other cases the police went too far before reading the rights, and this can serve as a basis for a legal dismissal of the charge.
In the correct case a properly based Miranda objection can mean the difference between a dismissal or a conviction. So although a Miranda objection isn't a magic bullet that will win every case, it can be an effective defense tool.