An area of criminal law that ordinary Americans are most familiar with involves Miranda rights. A defendant’s Miranda rights are protected by the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the government from forcing anyone to testify against themselves or be coerced into making incriminating statements to law enforcement officers. Generally speaking, the law requires police officers to verbally give Miranda warnings before questioning a defendant who has been taken into custody. If a police officer obtains a confession from an in-custody suspect without giving the proper Miranda warnings first, the confession can be kept out of court. These protections are not absolute, however, as evidenced by a recent Arizona Court of Appeals decision that affirmed a defendant’s conviction even though police obtained statements from him in violation of Miranda.
According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the defendant was riding an unregistered motorcycle when police attempted to stop him. The defendant attempted to flee the pursuing officers when he crashed his motorcycle into a wall and was apprehended. Shortly after the crash, the defendant told the police that he didn’t stop because he didn’t want the motorcycle to be impounded. The defendant was arrested and charged with unlawful flight from a law enforcement vehicle. During later questioning, the defendant was given his Miranda rights and again confessed to the crime of fleeing from the police.
Before trial, the defendant’s counsel attempted to suppress his statements to police, arguing that the defendant was in custody after the crash and that he was questioned by police without hearing his Miranda rights, and the violation warranted the evidence’s suppression. The trial court ruled against the defendant and ultimately convicted him as charged. The defendant appealed the ruling to the Arizona Court of Appeals, pressing the Miranda issue further.
On appeal, the court acknowledged that the defendant’s initial confession may have been elicited in violation of Miranda, however, the court affirmed the conviction anyway. The court reasoned that any error in eliciting the initial confession was not prejudicial to the defendant, as he again confessed to the crime after he was given correctly his Miranda rights. As a result of the appellate ruling, the defendant’s conviction will stand.
Many Arizonans know that it is often best to remain silent and request an attorney when being questioned by police. What may not be as obvious is that it is never too late to stop answering questions and request an attorney. Even if someone has already confessed to a crime, it may hurt their case to repeat the confession in subsequent questioning, as the initial confession may have been obtained illegally and be suppressed from the trial.
Police officers and prosecutors will use every tactic at their disposal to make their jobs easier. This includes intentionally eliciting statements in violation of the Constitution and tricking defendants into thinking that the cat is already out of the bag, only to have the defendant repeat the Illegally obtained confession during a “legal” interrogation. Court precedent is supposed to protect defendants from such tactics, but in practice, it can be difficult to succeed at these challenges.
Have You Been Charged With A Crime?
If you or a loved one are being questioned about or have been charged with any crime in Arizona, fighting your prosecution can feel like an uphill battle. The experienced Arizona criminal defense lawyers with the Law Office of James E. Novak understand how to challenge evidence in court, and we have successfully had cases dismissed for Miranda violations. If you have been arrested, contact us and we’ll start working on your defense today. Whether you’ve confessed to a crime or not, you may still have a valid defense from all charges. To schedule a free consultation and discuss your case, call 480-413-1499.