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.