Question: My daughter was arrested at her boyfriend’s house in Philadelphia. Her boyfriend was charged with attempted murder. The police think that she helped him. My daughter did not help her boyfriend and did not have any knowledge of this. Another friend who was at the house when they were arrested tells me that the police did not read her the Miranda rights. Aren’t the police required to read them to her? Don’t they say she can’t be questioned without an attorney? If the police didn’t read her the rights, doesn’t the case get dismissed?
Answer: Unfortunately that is not the case. When arrested individuals are not read their Miranda rights, it can be a reason that a case is dismissed, but it is not a guarantee that a criminal case will be dismissed.
The Miranda warnings protect individuals from self-incrimination. The 5th Amendment provides individuals protection from being compelled to testify against themselves. In general, when individuals are arrested, the Philadelphia police officer reads the following to them:
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 an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?
If the individuals speaks to the police after they are read the warnings, their statements may be used later at trial. However, if the individuals do not wish to speak to the police and ask for a criminal defense lawyer, then the police cannot question the individuals anymore until their attorneys are present.
In your daughter’s case, just because she wasn’t read the Miranda warnings does not necessarily mean that the case will be dismissed. The police can read her the Miranda warnings at the station prior to asking her questions. In that case, the statements she provided can be used in a subsequent trial.
On the other hand, if the police do not read her the rights at the station and begin questioning her, the statements cannot be used in a subsequent trial. However, just because her statements cannot be used in court does not mean the case gets dismissed. The prosecutor can still file charges against her if there is other evidence against her for the attempted murder. In such a case, the criminal case will not be dismissed.