The Miranda rights are designed to protect people in police custody from being forced to make statements that would later be used against them in trial. These warnings are rooted in the constitutional rights protected by the Fifth and Sixth Amendment—they inform individuals of their privilege against self-incrimination and their right to an attorney.
Miranda warnings are given to you only when you are placed under custodial interrogation. Law enforcement will read these rights to you prior to interrogation, and you may waive these rights if you wish. Failure to “Mirandize” can result in any statements or confessions that you make during or after an arrest being ruled inadmissible in court. These rights only apply to statements. They do not apply to physical evidence obtained during an arrest.
It’s important to keep in mind that law enforcement officers are trained to get information from you without making it seem like a formal interrogation. So you must be mindful of affirmatively invoking your right to remain silent if you find yourself in this type of situation.
Many might find it surprising that Miranda warnings are more directly related to interrogation rather than arrest. Though the Miranda rights are some of the most important rights you have as an American (and a Texan), they are unfortunately some of the most misunderstood rights among citizens.
They aren’t simply about your right to remain silent or your right to an attorney (familiar phrases we’ve seen peppered in crime shows)—Miranda rights are so much more complicated than that.
Here at The Law Office of Eric Harron, we are dedicated to providing clients with the care and attention required for your case. So we are taking this opportunity to dive into the history, key details, and events you need to help you understand your Miranda rights in Texas.
Where Did Miranda Rights Come From?
Miranda rights are named after the 1966 Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona. In this case, Ernesto Miranda was arrested for stealing eight dollars from an Arizona bank worker. After two hours of questioning, Miranda confessed to the robbery, kidnapping, and rape of the worker. He was found guilty and sentenced to prison.
Since he was not advised of his Constitutional rights, the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that the statements and confessions Miranda made could not be used as evidence against him. The judges decided he did not get a fair trial, and his conviction was reversed.
Miranda v. Arizona instituted further protection of the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights, establishing that suspects should be informed of their legal rights when placed under arrest. The “Miranda rights” were finalized in 1968 in the state of California and variations have been in use nationwide since then.
The Miranda Rights in Texas
What are the Miranda rights in Texas? Though the wording varies across states, your Miranda rights in Texas include the following:
- You don’t have to talk to the police if you don’t want to (this is your right to remain silent).
- If you choose to talk to the police, they can use what you say against you in a criminal case.
- If you choose to talk to the police, you can choose to have an attorney present.
- If you want an attorney but you can’t afford one, you have a right to have an attorney appointed for you at public expense.
- You can stop talking to the police whenever you want to.
Are Police Required to Read Your Miranda Rights in Texas?
It’s important to understand that the police are not always required to read your Miranda rights in Texas. They only have to give you Miranda warnings if you’re subject to what’s called a custodial interrogation. This means being placed in custody or in a situation where you have been deprived of your freedom to the level of an arrest. It’s important to note that an individual does not need to be placed behind bars or in handcuffs/physically restrained to be considered subject to custodial interrogation.
What Determines Custodial Interrogation?
Many people have the misconception that if the police did not inform them of their Miranda rights, their case can be dismissed. The truth is, Miranda rights in Texas only apply to statements made during a custodial interrogation. This refers to a situation when you are being questioned by law enforcement officers after being taken into custody.
So how do you know if you’re being subjected to a custodial interrogation? One way to know is if you’ve been arrested and taken in for questioning. This would warrant law enforcement to read you your Miranda rights.
But it’s also crucial to note that arrest is not always part of the custodial interrogation equation. Custody doesn’t necessarily correspond to arrest—it refers to any situation where you have been deprived of your freedom to a degree associated with a formal arrest.
If you haven’t been arrested but have been brought in by law enforcement for questioning, a helpful way to assess whether you have been subjected to custodial interrogation is evaluating whether you were at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave.
A common indication of this is officers stating clearly that you are free to go during questioning. In this case, you do not necessarily need to be read the Miranda rights. However, to make sure their bases are covered officers will frequently read Miranda rights before beginning such interviews.
Salinas v. Texas—A Famous Texas Case
No discussion of Texas Miranda laws is complete without mentioning the 2013 case, Salinas v. Texas. In this case, the Supreme Court determined that if you remain silent before police read your Miranda rights, your silence can and will be held against you.
In 1992, Genovevo Salinas was convicted of murdering his two brothers. He was brought in for questioning without being read his Miranda rights (he was not under arrest at this time and was “free to leave”). When asked whether the shotgun shells would match the gun found in his home, Salinas remained silent, and the officer expressed that the suspect demonstrated signs of deception. Years later in court, the prosecution used this silence against Salinas as evidence. Salinas was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The Takeaways of Salinas v. Texas
The big question of Salinas v. Texas was whether the prosecution was legally allowed to use Salinas’ silence—a Fifth Amendment right which he claimed he could invoke—against him. The court ruled that because the officer did not read his Miranda rights prior to the silence and Salinas did not announce he was invoking his Fifth Amendment right, Salina’s silence could be used as evidence.
This case illustrates some important facts that reflect the intricacies of Miranda rights in Texas:
- Though Salinas was being questioned, he was not formally in custodial interrogation because he was not arrested and was free to leave anytime. Therefore, it was not required that he be read and protected by his Miranda rights.
- You must affirmatively invoke your right to remain silent, or it doesn’t count. It’s not enough just to shuffle your feet and look away.
Articles 38.21 and 38.22 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures
Articles 38.21 and 38.22 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures lay out the terms and conditions in which suspects’ statements can be used and held against them. It also carries the Texas Miranda warnings.
- Article 38.21 – If you freely and voluntarily provide a statement to law enforcement, this statement can be used as evidence against you.
- Article 38.22 – No written statement (hand-written by the accused in a language that is read/understood by them) made by an accused as a result of custodial interrogation can be used as evidence against them unless they have been read their Miranda rights.
Important Notes on Miranda Warnings
Salinas v Texas and Articles 38.21 and 38.22 illuminate key takeaways and conditions you should be mindful of regarding your Miranda rights in Texas:
- Miranda warnings cover what you say – Miranda rights cover only the things that you say—they don’t cover things that you do. That means, if you’re arrested for being drunk in public and the police have video of you stumbling around, they can use that video against you as evidence.
- Voluntarily offering information does not require a Miranda warning – If you walk up to a police officer on your own and provide voluntary statements, they don’t have to give you a Miranda warning. Similarly, police can have voluntary encounters by coming up to you which does not necessarily trigger the need to read Miranda warnings.
- Miranda warnings only cover questioning by the police – Miranda warnings only cover things that you say when the police are questioning you; they don’t cover what you say to other people in custody. If you call your brother and admit everything, crying foul with a Miranda rights violation isn’t going to help. The same is true if you talk with a family member while police are out of the room, and the police record it.
- You can waive your Miranda rights – Unless you can show that your decision to waive your rights/speak to the police was due to police misconduct and coercion, waiving Miranda rights is voluntary. You can knowingly and intelligently waive these rights.
- You must be placed under both custody and interrogation – Being arrested does not warrant Miranda warnings nor does being interrogated. The bottom line is, you must be put in a situation where you are held against your will / under police custody and are being questioned.
Who Decides if the Police Violated my Miranda Rights?
If you believe that the police violated your Miranda rights in Texas, you need to ask the court to throw out the things that you said. That means asking the court to tell the state that they can’t use what you previously said. This is usually done by making a motion suppress the statements to the court before your case goes to trial. You might only have a limited amount of time to get your motions filed, so it’s important to contact an attorney as quickly as possible.
Fight for Your Rights—Reach Out to The Law Office of Eric Harron Today
When the police want to ask you about your potential involvement in a crime, the best thing to do is say that you’re invoking your right to remain silent. Tell the police that you want to speak with your lawyer immediately, and contact us.
Here at the Law Office of Eric Harron, we care about protecting all your rights and are here to help you examine your law enforcement interactions in Austin, Travis County, Williamson County, Bell County, and Hays County. A competent attorney can mean the difference between having case dismissed and having a serious regret. Let’s fight for your rights together.