From TV shows, the news and other sources, most people have heard the term Miranda warnings. Unlike just about every legal issue seen on TV, the Miranda warnings that are read on TV are usually somewhat similar to what is read to suspects in real life. Miranda warnings are something that are required both in the Florida and United States constitutions based on the premise that no one shall ever be compelled to make any statement incriminating him/herself.
Police in Florida are not always required to give a suspect Miranda warnings when they talk to a suspect. Miranda warnings are required when a suspect is being questioned after having been taken into custody. This does not necessarily mean the suspect was handcuffed and taken to the police station. If the police create a situation where the suspect does not reasonably believe he/she is free to leave as he/she is being interrogated, Miranda warnings should be given. Those warnings tell the suspect, among other things, that the suspect has a right to a lawyer and has a right to remain silent. Most of the time, exercising both of those rights is a very good idea.
If the police interrogate a suspect in custody and do not recite the Miranda warnings, any subsequent statement given by the suspect may be inadmissible in court. That is the penalty for failing to provide Miranda warnings when required. The charges do not automatically get dropped, and the defendant is not automatically released. However, a statement that was taken from a defendant can be suppressed which may be a significant blow to the state’s case.
In a recent murder case near Jacksonville, Florida, the police took three statements from the suspect and only Mirandized her for the third one. The first statement was a consensual encounter with the police, and the suspect was not in custody at the time. That statement was permitted to be used against the defendant because it was not considered a custodial interrogation and Miranda was not required. The second statement was more of an interrogation and took place in the interrogation room at the police station. The police should have given the suspect Miranda warnings before taking this statement. The third statement was taken about an hour after the second one. One reason for this statement was that the police realized they did not Mirandize the suspect during the second statement. They knew they had a problem with that second statement and try to remedy it by starting again with a third statement and giving the proper Miranda warnings.
The criminal defense lawyer was able to get the second and third statements thrown out of court. The second one was obvious since Miranda warnings were not given. The third statement was thrown out because it was close in time to the second statement and the failure of the police to give Miranda warnings with the second statement tainted the third statement. It could not be cured with subsequent Miranda warnings. Had sufficient time elapsed between the second and third statements, perhaps a day or more, the third statement may have been acceptable, but because it was so close to the second statement, it was inadmissible as well.