Everyone who has seen a procedural cop TV show (Law & Order come immediately to mind) knows what the Miranda Rights are. You’ve likely heard some version of the following before:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?”
Miranda rights are a warning that police give to suspects during arrest, informing them that they have the right to remain silent, and whatever they say can be used as evidence should their case go to trial.
A Common Misconception
A common misconception is that a case will automatically be thrown out if an arresting officer fails to read an offender their Miranda Rights (no doubt the misconception stems from one of the above mentioned TV procedurals).
This is actually not the case. If an officer fails to read a person their rights during an arrest, the case is not automatically dismissed. However, under these circumstances, any confession the suspect gives (without being given their Miranda Rights) will be suppressed at trial. In other words, whatever the suspect says cannot be used as evidence in trial.
Impact of Suppression
Depending on the case, this can be a game-changing shakeup, or no big deal at all. If the suspect spilled their guts to the arresting officer and divulged a lot of explicit information about the case, the suppression of this confession may just tip the scales in favor of the defendant. But if the prosecution has a rock solid case, even without the defendant’s confession, the suppression may not matter in the end.