When do I need to be given my Miranda rights?

Contrary to popular belief, Miranda rights are not required just because a police officer questions an individual.  Three things are required before you are entitled to have Miranda rights given:

  1. The person must be in “custody” as that term has been defined by the courts.
  2. The person must be subjected to “interrogation” as that term has been defined by the courts.
  3. The questioning must be by a police officer or law enforcement officer employed by a governmental agency.

The courts have struggled to define when an individual is in custody and being interrogated for purposes of determining when Miranda rights must be given, and each case is fact-specific.  But generally, a person is considered to be in custody if the person reasonably believes he or she is no longer free to leave the scene or is otherwise restricted from leaving.  Interrogation has been broadly defined as questioning or other conduct (for example, statements that are made to provoke the person to provide a response) that is designed to get an incriminating response.  Finally, Miranda rights are only required if you are being questioned by a police officer, detective or law enforcement agent.  Actions by private citizens (for example, a private security guard working in a store) do not require the reading of Miranda rights.

If all three elements are met, Miranda rights must be given.  If those rights are not given, any statements that the individual makes may not be used against him or her.


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