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Miranda v. Arizona: What are Your Rights if Police Want to Question You in South Carolina?

Miranda v. Arizona: What are Your Rights if Police Want to Question You in South Carolina?
Axelrod & Associates, P.A.

What are your rights if police want to question you in South Carolina? How do you exercise your Miranda rights to avoid police interrogation?

At a minimum, questioning by law enforcement implicates the Fifth Amendment (your right to due process, to remain silent, and not to provide evidence against yourself), the Sixth Amendment (your right to an attorney), and the 14th Amendment (your right not to be subjected to a coerced confession).

Below, we will discuss your rights when police want to question you, including:

  • Your Miranda rights,
  • How to exercise your Miranda rights,
  • Common myths about Miranda warnings, and
  • 14th Amendment voluntariness.

Miranda Rights – You Have the Right to Remain Silent…

We’ve probably all heard police reading Miranda warnings to a suspect – if not in person, then on television shows and in the movies.

If you’ve never learned anything about Miranda warnings other than what you see on television, you might think that police must read your rights to you when arresting you, or that your criminal charges must be dismissed if police don’t read your rights to you (neither is true).

What are Your Miranda Rights?

First, what are Miranda rights?

In Miranda v. Arizona, noting that physically and psychologically coerced police confessions were a problem in our criminal justice system, the US Supreme Court created a set of rules for when law enforcement must inform a suspect of their constitutional rights before an interrogation.

When a suspect 1) is in custody and 2) makes statements in response to questioning by a government actor, those statements are not admissible in court unless the questioner first informs the person that:

  • They have the right to remain silent,
  • Anything they say can and will be used against them in court,
  • They have the right to consult an attorney and have their attorney present during questioning, and
  • If they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent them.

How Do You Exercise Your Fifth Amendment Right to Remain Silent or Your Sixth Amendment Right to an Attorney?

When you are contacted by law enforcement, do not engage them in conversation. Do not answer their questions. Do not invite them into your home.

You should say nothing more or less than, “I want my attorney.”

The US Supreme Court thinks you are free to walk away from a police encounter (they would be, after all). So, you must attempt to walk away from the encounter or say, unequivocally, “I want my attorney,” and then, “Am I free to go?”

Anything less could be construed by the court as not invoking your right to an attorney or your right to remain silent. Anything more could be construed by the court as a waiver of your right to remain silent or your right to have an attorney present.

Common Myths About Miranda Rights

What are some common myths about Miranda rights?

Police Must Read Miranda Warnings Before Any Questioning

False – law enforcement is only required to read Miranda warnings to a suspect when 1) the person is “in custody,” 2) law enforcement intends to question the person, and 3) law enforcement cares if the responses will be admissible in court.

Police Must Read Miranda Warnings Every Time They Arrest Someone

False – despite what you see in the TV shows, police are not required to read Miranda warnings when they arrest a person. Miranda has nothing to do with arrest and is only required when law enforcement intends to question a suspect while the suspect is in custody.

Your Case Will Be Dismissed if Police Didn’t Read Miranda Rights

False – your case will not be dismissed based on law enforcement’s failure to read Miranda rights before arrest or questioning.

In South Carolina, DUI charges used to be dismissed when the police officer failed to read Miranda rights on the roadside video, because it is a mandatory requirement in SC’s videotape law.

In 2022, however, the SC Supreme Court held in State v. Kenneth Taylor that courts no longer need to dismiss DUI charges when police officers don’t comply with the law formerly known as the “mandatory” videotape law because that requirement, imposed by the SC legislature, is “absurd.”

So, your case is not likely to be dismissed based on a failure to read Miranda warnings in South Carolina, even in DUI cases.

Don’t Forget About Voluntariness – 14th Amendment Due Process

Anytime a defense lawyer moves to suppress a client’s statement based on a Miranda violation under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, they should also consider whether the statements were voluntary, which could be a separate ground to suppress the statements or a separate issue on appeal if the motion is denied.

A defendant’s statement must be suppressed if it was taken in violation of Miranda, and a defendant’s statement must be suppressed if it was coerced. Separate from Miranda, a coerced confession is a Due Process violation under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

In many cases, the defense will request a Jackson v. Denno hearing before trial begins, asking the court to determine whether any statements violated Miranda or the defendant’s 14th Amendment Due Process rights.

Got Axelrod?

If you have been charged with a crime in SC, if you have been convicted of a crime and need help filing your appeal, or if you won an appeal and need help retrying your case, call now at 843-353-3449 or email us online to speak with a criminal defense lawyer on the Axelrod team today.


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