If I walked into a full staff meeting and in front of everyone, blew my boss away (I actually really like my boss and would never do that to him) and the police failed to read me my Miranda rights, would I really get off on a technicality? I mean, the eveidence is overwhelming, 15 people saw me do it, but because I’m not read my rights, would I be freed? (I was reading a bad detective novel over the weekend and the killer got off on this technicality - this first time.)
Failure to read you your Miranda rights merely excludes from the evidence any statements you made at the time. It does not exclude all evidence.
Even better, Miranda only restricts the admission of any statements you make in the context of a custodial interrogation.
That is, if you’re standing there with a smoking gun in your hand, and the cops enter the room and you nonchalantly say, “Oh, hiya, I shot my boss just now,” then that admission is going to be used against you at trial.
After the cops have seized you, be it by handcuffs or just by taking you firmly by the arms – whenever they have restricted your liberty in such a way that an ordinary person would not believe he was free to leave – and start to ask you questions, the answers you give will not be admissible against you in the prosecution’s case-in-chief unless you’ve been Mirandized first.
Regardless, the fifteen witnesses could certainly testify against you, Miranda warnings or not.
The usual TV or book trick for this “off on a technicality” business is to tie every other piece of evidence to the un-Mirandized confession. That is, the cops custodially interrogate you, you spill the beans about how you’re guilty and where you hid the murder weapon, the cops go search based on your admission and discover bags and bags of inculpatory evidence, and then it all gets thrown out because the statement wasn’t Mirandized and the rest of the evidence is all “fruit of the poison tree” – that is, it all got to the cops BECAUSE of the bad confession, and without the confession, they’d never have gotten the other evidence.
In your hypothetical, the other evidence is independent of any confession, not fruit of any poisoned tree, and therefore admissible.
Since I get my legal knowledge from watching L&O reruns, I assume that most of what I know has little or no basis in fact. But I wanted to ask a question about how the cops/DA have gotten around excluded evidence on those shows and if there is a basis for that.
Sometimes they DA has shown to the judge that it was inevitable that they the cops would find the evidence or that other leads would have led to the exact same evidence, and therefore it could be introduced even though otherwise it would have been excluded. So, does this happen in real life, and what are the criteria for allowing otherwise “poisoned fruit”?
The above cite is from 2002; I don’t know what if any changes there have been since the original date of publication. You’re asking about the second exception to the rule, the inevitable discovery exception. The exception comes from Nix v Williams. The prosecutor has to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the otherwise illegally collected evidence would have been discovered even without the Miranda violation (e.g. volunteer search teams would have discovered a body anyway).
Thanks, that’s exactly what I was looking for. Interesting and quite understandable reading.
Thanks guys. That totally coincides with my initial gut feeling.
When looking closely at the book, it didn’t take too much liberty with the law.
thanks to all who responded.