Virginia Legal Rights

Do you really know when your constitutional rights apply?
We are experienced in Virginia legal rights and are here to help clarify this question.

As an experienced and career detective, I’ve had people ask me why their charge wasn’t tossed out in court when the officer didn’t read their rights to them upon arrest. A lot of people believe that their Miranda Rights apply when they are arrested. Truth be told, that’s not the case. Miranda only applies when an officer intends on obtaining any part of a confession about the alleged crime for which a person is charged.

What is Miranda?

Miranda Rights are constitutional rights afforded to a person that has been placed under arrest. Simply, you have a right to a lawyer before questioning and to have a lawyer present during questioning, and so on. But, when does it apply?

A law enforcement officer, usually a detective or agent, will use a simple equation when they NEED to read Miranda Rights to a person. That equation looks something like this:

CUSTODY + INTERROGATION = MIRANDA

So, what does that really mean to the average citizen? Well, it means that if the officer intends to question a suspect for an apparent criminal law violation, in order to obtain a confession, their Miranda Rights MUST be read to them IF they are in CUSTODY. Custody means that they are NOT free to leave.

So, you may then ask, what if I’m not in custody, then what? Well, believe it or not, most experienced law enforcement officers actually prefer that the suspect NOT be in custody when they intend to obtain a confession from the suspect, and here’s why.

As I mentioned earlier, just about everybody has heard Miranda being explained to a suspect who is in custody. Most people, because they have heard this, equate Miranda with arrest. A police officer, of course, knows that when they read a someone his/her Miranda Rights, that person automatically becomes nervous, scared or both. Any way you look at it, it’s not good for the suspect.

So, an experienced officer will attempt to meet with the suspect and get him/her to voluntarily come down to the precinct/police station. That’s right, voluntarily. There are two reasons why the officer prefers this method. First, the officer can avoid Miranda. Secondly, it’s because the officer lacks probable cause to arrest the suspect and this way he/she can extract more information from the suspect. Believe me when I say that most people will agree to accompany the officer. That’s because it’s how the officer makes his/her approach to the suspect that makes the difference whether or not the suspect voluntarily commits to an interview. Notice that I said interview, not an interrogation.

The approach that an officer uses goes something like this: “Hi Mr. Jones, my name is Detective ********. Hey, I’m looking into an incident that occurred last Friday and I think you might be able to help me out. Would you mind coming down to the station with me? You’re not under arrest or anything like that and when we’re through, I’ll give you a ride back home.” Nine times out of ten the suspect go with the officer; It’s all in the approach.

This statement/question puts the suspect at ease. The suspect hears that he/she may be able to help the officer AND that he/she isn’t under arrest. The best part is when we’re done talking there’s a ride home! Sounds good!

So, what happens from here is that after the suspect agrees, he/she is seated in the front seat of the officer’s car, as opposed to the back. The officer then engages in small talk with the suspect until they’ve reached the station. After being placed in an interview room, the officer will again advise the suspect that he/she is not under arrest and that they can leave at any time. Remember, this is all voluntary.

This approach is a huge benefit for the officer. It affords the officer the opportunity to obtain useful information from the suspect that not only could enhance the officer’s case but could back the suspect into a corner when at a later date the suspect is arrested and another interview/interrogation takes place.

After the interview with the suspect has terminated, the officer thanks the suspect for his/her time and then proceeds to give the suspect a ride home. What the suspect told the officer is a deciding factor whether or not he/she will be arrested in the future. But usually, the suspect has given useful information to the officer which will assist with the future arrest of the suspect.

Let’s look at that equation again and see what I’ve done with the voluntary interview.

CUSTODY + INTERROGATION = MIRANDA

I’ve eliminated the CUSTODY part because it’s voluntary. In doing so, the INTERROGATION has been changed to an interview. Because of that, MIRANDA is no longer required.

Just a bit of knowledge for those wondering why someone was arrested and their Miranda Rights were never read to them upon arrest.

If you need help with understanding your Virginia legal rights or circustances requiring private investigations in Alexandria, Arlington, Fall Church, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County contact us for a free consultation.

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