Whether through books or TV shows or movies, most people in Florida have heard the Miranda warnings and understand that the police are supposed to read them to a suspect after he/she has been arrested. It is important that the police inform people of their constitutional rights upon their arrest. Of course, this includes the right to always remain silent when police want to ask questions or take a statement and the right to consult with a lawyer before a suspect makes any statement or makes any decisions about his/her case.
However, the police do not have to read a person the Miranda warnings in every encounter they have with suspects. The general rule is that the police are required to read Miranda warnings before any custodial interrogation. In other words, a suspect has to be in custody to trigger this requirement. Custody is generally defined as a situation where the suspect is not free to leave. Obviously, if a person is being handcuffed and arrested, he/she is in custody. However, it is less clear when the police confront a suspect to ask questions or bring the suspect to the police department to ask questions. The other requirement is that the police are conducting an interrogation. If the police approach a person and the person starts making statements on his/her own, that is obviously not a custodial interrogation that requires Miranda warnings. If a suspect voluntarily goes to the police station and starts talking to the police, that likely is not a custodial interrogation either. However, if any force or involuntary confinement is used and/or it is clear that the suspect cannot just stop and leave, that would be a custodial interrogation.
It is important to note that, whether an encounter with police is a custodial interrogation or obviously a consensual and casual interaction or something in between that is not so clear, a suspect or defendant always has the right to remain silent and request a lawyer before anything critical to the case happens. And in just about every situation, that is exactly what a suspect or defendant should do. Many, many cases get a whole lot worse for suspects and defendants when they make the decision to talk to the police without knowing all of the facts and issues about their case.
In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, a defendant allegedly committed a crime in one county and turned himself in to the police in another county once he learned there was a warrant for his arrest. The defendant was held in a holding cell in that county for several hours until the police from the county where the crime occurred could pick him up. During that time, the defendant made incriminating statements to a police officer outside of his holding cell. Those statements were used against the defendant at his trial although Miranda warnings were never given
This was not a custodial interrogation situation. Clearly, the defendant was in custody as he was under arrest pursuant to a warrant. But, there was no interrogation as the defendant voluntarily made statements the police officer could hear. Therefore, Miranda warnings were not necessary.
A situation like this could be considered a custodial interrogation under certain circumstances. If the police officer started asking questions in response to the suspect’s statements rather than just listening and writing the statements down, that could convert the situation into a custodial interrogation. There was also a case in Florida where the police detained a suspect and put him in an interrogation room for hours without telling him why he was there. The suspect naturally asked questions about his status which led to incriminating statements. In that situation, the court held that the police set up a confusing situation which was likely to cause the suspect to make statements. The police cannot do that without reading Miranda warnings and letting the suspect know his rights.