What most people know about Miranda Rights are what they see on TV shows like Law & Order. Usually, the show depicts a person being arrested and the first thing that happens after the handcuffs are slapped on is they are read their Miranda Rights. Given that this is the extent of most people’s education about Miranda, we frequently get the call that someone’s rights were violated during the arrest process.
What Are Miranda Rights?
The Miranda warning is given by police to criminal suspects in police custody before they are interrogated to preserve the admissibility of their statements to be used in criminal proceedings. Essentially, if you are in custody or you have been detained and you are unable to leave, you must be Mirandized prior to being interrogated IF law enforcement intends to use those statements in a court setting.
Let’s dissect this a little further:
If you have not been detained or you have the ability to leave custody, the police are not required to Mirandize you.
If you are being detained and the police are questioning you but do not have any intention of using the information gathered in the interrogation in court, then they do not need to Mirandize you. However, if they decide at a later date that they want to admit those statements into evidence in court, that would be a Miranda violation.
Based on the above definitions, most encounters with law enforcement in North Carolina would not require a Miranda warning. Why? The most common criminal charges in North Carolina are DWI, misdemeanor drugs, and larceny. In most situations, people are either cited without ever being taken into custody or they are processed at a police station but are usually not questioned. In either of these circumstances, the requirement for Miranda is not met because an individual is not being interrogated while being detained without the ability to leave.
You can see how the Miranda rules could create confusion about when the warning is required and when it is not. For this reason, it is always advisable to not answer questions posed by law enforcement. Whether you have been Mirandized or not, you have the right to remain silent and you should always exercise that right. The less information law enforcement has, the better off you will be. Don’t be lured into the idea that if you cooperate and answer the police’s questions, you will be better off. You can be polite while at the same time declining to answer questions, which is what you should always do.