Encounters between the police and citizens fall into three different categories.
A First Tier Encounter is casual contact between a citizen and the police. This is a purely voluntary encounter and no detention takes place. Since no detention takes place and you are free to walk away, this is NOT an arrest.
A Second Tier Encounter involves a brief investigative detention of a citizen by the police. You cannot simply walk away but investigative detention is NOT an arrest.
A Third Tier Encounter is custodial detention of a citizen by police. This IS an arrest.
In most instances, a person has no doubt about when he is placed under arrest. But what happens if the officer never says "You are under arrest"? The answer is surprisingly simple. Under Georgia law, if circumstances are such that a reasonable person would believe that he/she were under arrest, then an arrest has occurred. If the time of arrest is in dispute, a judge will make the determination at a pretrial hearing.
When Miranda Rights Are Not Required
Advisement of Miranda Rights, also called Miranda Warning, is not required in a First or Second Tier encounter. Any incriminating statements you make while being interrogated prior to being placed under arrest are admissible in court.
Keep in mind that you are under no legal obligation to talk to the police during a First or Second Tier encounter.
When Miranda Rights Are Required
Once a person is arrested, advisement of Miranda Rights is required before the person can be questioned. If the officer asks you any questions after you are arrested but before you are advised of your Miranda Rights, any statement you make would be excluded. If the prosecutor's case rests solely on this suppressed statement, then your case will most likely be dismissed. However, in most instances, the prosecutor relies on evidence other than your incriminating statement.
Miranda Warnings Are Broader Under Georgia Law
At the federal level, Miranda Rights apply only to oral or written statements. In Georgia, Miranda Rights apply not only to statements, but to certain "acts" also. For example, if someone is arrested for DUI, then asked to perform field sobriety evaluations without being Mirandized, the field evaluations would be inadmissible.
Once someone is arrested, a voluntary or "spontaneous utterance" is admissible even if no Miranda Warnings are given.
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