How Your Miranda Rights may be Grounds for Appeal

Perhaps the most common ground for appeal in a criminal case involves rulings on the admissibility of evidence. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1966 in ”Miranda vs. Arizona” that police had to advise a suspect who was in custody of his or her rights under the Fifth Amendment prior to questioning, it opened a floodgate of appeals that continue as courts deal with issues surrounding the admissibility of statements and confessions.

For instance, most people know the Miranda warnings from having seen and heard them recited by police in countless movies and television shows:

  • You have the right to remain silent;
  • Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law;
  • You have the right to speak with an attorney and to have the attorney present during questioning; and,
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

The admissibility of confessions can still raise appealable issues even after 50 years of police being compelled to recite Miranda warnings. Issues that might arise, depending upon the facts of a particular case could include any of the following:

  • Was the defendant in custody when questioned by the police? Unless it was a custodial situation, Miranda might not apply.
  • Did the police question the suspect? An admission blurted out by a suspect who is in police custody, but who is not being questioned by the police, might not fall within the protections granted by Miranda.

A trial judge making a ruling on the introduction of a confession might have 50 years of precedent to support the decision, but an appeal to a higher court might result in an interpretation of the law under “Miranda vs. Arizona” that differs from prior decisions based on the unique facts of the current case. Even old legal principles can offer grounds for an appellate challenge to a ruling on the evidence in a particular case.