YOUR RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT
Under the landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court in Miranda v. State of Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966) , law enforcement officers must warn a person of their Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent before starting an interrogation. This mandatory requirement is commonly referred to as a "MIRANDA WARNING"
Before we discuss the Constitutional Rights you possess to remain silent, you must first understand the many different ways that police conduct interrogations. The following definitions are being provided for the purpose of clarity from BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY, Abridged Ninth edition:
interrogation: n. The formal systematic questioning of a person; especially, intensive questioning by the police, usually of a person arrested for or suspected of committing a crime. *The Supreme Court has held that, for purpose of the Fifth amendment right against self-incrimination, interrogation includes not only express questioning but also words or action that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response. Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 100 S.Ct. 1082 (1980).
custodial interrogation: Police questioning of a detained person about the crime that he or she is suspected of having committed. * Miranda warnings must be given before a custodial interrogation.
investigatory interrogation: Routine, non-accusatory questioning by the police of a person who is not in custody. ***( Miranda Warnings are not given before an investigatory interrogation).
noncustodial interrogation: Police questioning of a suspect who has not been detained and can leave at will. * Miranda Warnings are usually not given before a noncustodial interrogation.
With that being said, you should understand that an "interrogation" does not only include a situation where an arrested or accused person is locked in a small room and questioned by police officers about a crime. There are many different scenarios other than the "traditional" interrogation situation that happen everyday. The following examples are being provided for clarity...
EXAMPLE #1 :
Jane Doe is standing on the street corner with other civilians from the neighborhood as they watch police officers and Crime Scene Investigators seal off the parameters of a recent shooting and collect evidence. As Jane Doe and the other onlookers stand along a nearby sidewalk and communicate with one another a detective approaches them and questions, "Has anyone seen what transpired here today..."
*** THE ABOVE SCENARIO IS AN EXAMPLE OF AN "INVESTIGATORY INTERROGATION" BECAUSE THE POLICE DETECTIVE IS ONLY CONDUCTING ROUTINE QUESTIONING OF NEIGHBORHOOD CIVILIANS WHO ARE NOT ACCUSED OF BEING A SUSPECT OF THE CRIME. WITH AN "INVESTIGATORY INTERROGATION" THE POLICE ARE NOT REQUIRED TO GIVE A "MIRANDA WARNING".
EXAMPLE #2 :
John Doe and his teenage peers hang outside of a neighborhood corner-store, talking and watching vehicles ride by. As time passes by, an unmarked Chevy Impala pulls up and 2 plainclothes officers step out the car and approach John Doe and his peers. The policemen force the teens to face a nearby wall as they proceed to pat search the teens for suspected weapons and drugs. After failing to discover contraband, 1 of the policemen questions the teenagers, "What do you guys know about the homicide that happened yesterday?"...
***THE ABOVE SCENARIO IS AN EXAMPLE OF A "NONCUSTODIAL INTERROGATION" BECAUSE THE TEENAGERS ARE NOT LEGALLY IN POLICE CUSTODY YET (i.e: NOT ARRESTED). THIS TYPE OF INTERROGATION IS SO DANGEROUS BECAUSE ALTHOUGH THE PERSON BEING QUESTIONED IS NOT TECHNICALLY ARRESTED YET, THE INTERROGATION IS OFTEN CONDUCTED UNDER THE THREAT OF AN ARREST. HOWEVER, THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT DURING A "NONCUSTODIAL INTERROGATION" THE PERSON BEING QUESTIONED CAN LEAVE AT WILL... THE "NONCUSTODIAL INTERROGATION" IS ALSO DANGEROUS DUE TO THE FACT THAT SUCH AN INTERROGATION USUALLY ELICITS A SELF-INCRIMINATING STATEMENT FROM A SUSPECT, WHILE THE POLICE ARE NOT REQUIRED TO GIVE A "MIRANDA WARNING" BEFORE THE INTERROGATION.
EXAMPLE #3 :
Jane Doe, a 50 year old woman, is sitting in her living room watching television when a forceful knock is heard against her home's front door. Jane Doe answers the door and is met by 2 city police officers who were looking for her 24 year old son. The police officers ask Jane Doe if her son is currently at the residence and if they could come in to take a look around. Jane Doe asks the police officers if they have a search warrant, and the police officers tell her no. Then, the police officers proceed to question Jane Doe further about her son.
***THE ABOVE SCENARIO COULD BE AN EXAMPLE OF EITHER A "NONCUSTODIAL INTERROGATION" OR AN "INVESTIGATORY INTERROGATION" DEPENDING ON THE UNMENTIONED CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE SCENARIO. FOR INSTANCE, IF JANE DOE'S SON WAS MENTIONED BY SOMEONE AS BEING AN ACCESSORY TO A CRIME, THE ABOVE SCENARIO WOULD BE AN "INVESTIGATORY INTERROGATION" BECAUSE THE POLICE OFFICERS ARE QUESTIONING JANE DOE (WHO IS NOT ACCUSED OF COMMITTING ANY CRIME) CONCERNING HER SON'S WHEREABOUTS IN CONNECTION TO A CRIME, WHILE JANE DOE IS NOT IN POLICE CUSTODY. HOWEVER, IF AN ARREST WARRANT HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR JANE DOE'S SON AND HE'S A FUGITIVE, THEN THE ABOVE SCENARIO COULD BE A "NONCUSTODIAL INTERROGATION" BECAUSE THE POLICE OFFICERS MAY SUSPECT THAT JANE DOE IS HARBORING A FUGITIVE (PROVIDING SHELTER FOR HER SON), WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW.
The moral of the story is that if a police officer asks you a question, you can most certainly be sure that some sort of INTERROGATION is taking place. However, you have a constitutional right under the U.S. Constitution, 5th Amendment TO REMAIN SILENT whenever you are being interrogated. But even more important than having such a right is exercising that right!
A "right" is like a muscle. If you don't exercise it, you don't have it. Therefore, EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT... If the police question you about anything, tell them, "I WISH TO REMAIN SILENT. WHERE IS MY LAWYER?"
SEEK TRUTH... BE AWARE... MAKE A DIFFERENCE...
PAsentencing.com was created solely for the purpose of providing the public with accurate information concerning the Pamphlet Laws of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other related subject matter. However, this website was not created by persons licensed to practice law throughout the state of Pennsylvania. PAsentencing.com should not be construed as a substitute for the advice or representation of an attorney, but rather an aid towards addressing specific aspects concerning illegal sentencing procedures throughout the state of Pennsylvania.
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