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When do police have to read you your rights?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP April 29, 2017

If you’ve ever watched a police drama, you probably know what your Miranda rights are. Starting with your right to remain silent, police officers are often heard reciting these rights to an individual as they are being arrested.Real life, however, is a far cry from a crime show, so where do they differ? Do police always have to read you your rights?

In custody and under interrogation

There is a lot of confusion around when police must read a person their Miranda rights. In fact, there is only one situation in which police are required to explain your rights: if you are BOTH in police custody AND being interrogated. However, these concepts can be more difficult to understand than you might think.

What does it mean to be in custody?

Being in police custody is any time police deprive you of your freedom to move to a degree associated with formal arrest. Most often, it means that you have been arrested, but sometimes it can encompass other scenarios, such as being held against your will even though you have not been arrested, or being required to move to another location with the police even if you are not under arrest.

Police do not have to explain your rights before talking to you during a consensual encounter such as talking on the street or during most routine traffic stops traffic stops because you are not considered to be in custody in those situations.

What does it mean to be interrogated?

Interrogation is questioning by the police regarding alleged or potential criminal activity. Simply asking for your ID or what your name is does not constitute interrogation.

What happens if police fail to explain your rights?

If police fail to read you your rights when you are BOTH in custody AND being interrogated, you have a strong argument that the statements you made during that time should not be used against you in court. Additionally, any evidence the police collect as a result of statements you make during an unconstitutional interrogation may be suppressed as the fruit of the unconstitutional investigation.

What to do no matter what situation you are in:

No matter what situation you are in, the best way to protect yourself is to remain silent. Even if you are not under arrest or being interrogation, police can still use anything you say against you. If you suspect you are being investigated for a crime or if you are arrested, the first thing you should do is call a lawyer.

When police can use anything you say against you, it is important to have an experienced Colorado trial attorney on your side who can help protect your rights and ensure you avoid incriminating yourself.