The Right to Remain Silent in Illinois: What Happens When You Talk

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While the Constitution guarantees persons the right to remain silent when facing police questioning, only some statements in some situations will be protected under federal and Illinois law. Many people are aware of the legal protections when a person accused of a crime faces arrest, which are commonly known as Miranda protections. Unfortunately, Miranda protections may not offer the breadth of protection that is commonly believed. This article will explore common fact scenarios in which Miranda and its progeny may apply. Of course, because every case is different, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can best advise on a specific circumstance.

What are the Miranda warnings?

Miranda warnings protect a suspect from incriminating himself in a crime, which is a privilege derived from the Constitution. Miranda warnings must be given to a person who is in custody and being questioned about his involvement in a crime. The warnings that must be given are that the suspect has a right to remain silent, that any statement he makes may be used as evidence against him, and that he has the right to an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for him. Miranda protections may be waived, but the waiver must be knowing, voluntary and intelligently made.

How does Miranda apply to statements that a defendant makes?

In many cases, whether police officers gave Miranda warnings or not, suspects will make statements implicating themselves in a crime. Because of the complexities of the law surrounding Miranda, these statements may or may not be admissible at trial. Whether a statement is admissible at trial may hinge on small variations in facts. As noted earlier, police officers and other investigators are only required to give Miranda warnings when a suspect is in custody and being directly questioned by the police officer.

For a suspect to be “in custody” for the purposes of Miranda, the suspect must be arrested or it must be objectively clear that he was not free to leave. For instance, a person who is asked to come to police headquarters for questioning and is told that he may not leave until he answers certain questions would be “in custody” for purposes of Miranda. If that same suspect was left waiting in the lobby, and then made an incriminating statement as the officer approached for a meeting, that statement would probably be admissible because the suspect was apparently free to leave when it was made.

A suspect must also be under questioning for Miranda to apply. If a person yells to a passing police officer that she shoplifted from a store, Miranda would not apply because the police officer had not questioned her about any crime. Similarly, if a suspect sitting in the backseat of a police cruiser overhears two officers discussing the crime in the front seat and makes an incriminating statement in response to their conversation, that statement would not be protected because he had not been directly questioned by either of the police officers.

Finally, a suspect may waive, or choose not to take advantage of, the protections Miranda offers. To waive Miranda, a suspect must be advised of the Miranda warnings, and then agree to speak to the officers. The suspect’s waiver, however, must be knowing, voluntary and intelligent. For example, if a suspect is advised of her rights under Miranda, she may decide to end the questioning until her lawyer is present. But while waiting for a lawyer, if she approaches the police officers and confesses to the crime, she has probably waived her right to protection under Miranda.

Other Instances Where Miranda Protections May Not Apply

Despite the requirement that police officers must give Miranda warnings to persons in custody and under questioning, in certain circumstances, the warnings are not necessary. For example, no warnings are necessary before questioning the suspect of a minor traffic offense on the scene or before taking a blood alcohol test from a person suspected of driving while intoxicated. Many other situations also do not require Miranda warnings. If you have been arrested for a crime or you believe that you are a suspect in a police investigation, you should consider contacting a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney before speaking with police officers.

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).