Written by attorney Sabarish P Neelakanta

A Defandant must be informed of their Miranda rights when in custody and subject to interrogation

A person must be informed of Miranda rights when in-custody and subject to interrogation. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). In Miranda, the United States Supreme Court enunciated a bright line rule to guard against compulsion and the coercive nature and atmosphere of custodial interrogation, “and assure that the individual’s right to choose between silence and speech remains unfettered throughout the interrogation process." Ramirez v. State, 739 So. 2d 568, 573 (Fla. 1999)(citing Miranda, 384 U.S. at 436). Miranda requires that police inform suspects that they have the right to remain silent, and that anything they do say can be used against them in court. Id. Furthermore, suspects must be told that they have the right to an attorney and if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for them. Id.

Custody for the purposes of Miranda includes not only a formal arrest but a restraint on the freedom of movement that is associated with a formal arrest. McDougle v. State, 828 So. 2d 454 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002). The test for determining custody is whether “a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would believe that his freedom of action was curtailed to the degree associated with an actual arrest." Ramirez v. State, 739 So. 2d 568, 574 (Fla. 1999). In determining whether a reasonable person would consider himself to be “in custody," a court should consider four factors, which include: “(1) the manner in which police summon the suspect for questioning; (2) the purpose, place, and manner of the interrogation; (3) the extent to which the suspect is confronted with evidence of his or her guilt; (4) whether the suspect is informed that he or she is free to leave the place of questioning." Id. at 374; see also Louis v. State, 855 So. 2d 253, 255 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003); Pollard v. State, 790 So. 2d 1015, 1017 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001).

The Miranda safeguards further come into play whenever a person in custody is subjected to either express questioning or its functional equivalent. The term “interrogation" under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect. Rhode Islandv. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301-31 (1980). The latter portion of this definition focuses primarily upon the perceptions of the suspect, rather than the intent of the police. Id. This focus reflects the fact that the Miranda safeguards were designed to vest a suspect in custody with an added measure of protection against coercive police practices, without regard to objective proof of the underlying intent of the police. Id. A practice that the police should know is reasonably likely to evoke an incriminating response from a suspect thus amounts to interrogation. See Traylor v. State, 596 So. 2d 957, 966 (Fla. 1992)(an “[i]nterrogation takes place… when a person is subjected to express questions, or other words or actions, by a state agent, that a reasonable person would conclude are designed to lead to an incriminating response"). An officer’s act of interjecting questions while “carrying on a conversation" with a defendant qualifies as “interrogation" for Miranda purposes and failure to give warnings requires reversal of trial court’s denial of motion to suppress. Larson v. State, 753 So. 2d 733 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2000).

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