You know the drill: The police detective corners the suspect, the cuffs come out and the detective starts to recite, “You have the right to remain silent…” while he or she is snapping those cuffs into place. You’ve probably seen it play out a hundred times or more on television police dramas.
The only problem? That isn’t how it works. Whole generations of people have, unfortunately, grown up with most of their understanding of their Miranda rights coming from what they see on TV — and that’s setting them (and probably you) up for disaster.
If you’re ever in a situation where you’re being investigated by the police, may have information the police want to know or are even in the vicinity of an investigation (say, when agents from the Office of the Inspector General come knocking on your boss’s door with a warrant for his Medicare billing records), here is what you really need to understand about the Miranda warning.
When are the police required to give you a Miranda warning?
Three things have to be true before the police are under any obligation to remind you of your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination:
- You have to be in custody. In other words, “not free to leave.” You may be formally under arrest or you may be plopped in a chair with your hands zip-tied behind your back while the police silently tear apart your desk. Either counts.
- You must be under interrogation — meaning you are being asked some sort of questions that could likely lead you to say something incriminating. If the officer is just making small talk, it doesn’t count — but anything you say that’s incriminating during that time absolutely will get used against you later. Be cautious.
- The interrogation must come from a law enforcement officer or someone acting for the law. In other words, if your co-worker starts asking you questions about why the OIG is there, and you say something incriminating that just happens to reach the ears of a nearby officer, you can’t claim your rights were violated because you weren’t Mirandized.
Commit these three things to memory and if you’re ever in doubt about your rights or what you should say, don’t say anything until you talk to a criminal defense attorney. Call our office or continue browsing our site for more information.