In one of our recent blog posts, we covered Miranda warnings and your right to remain silent when questioned by the police. An important aspect of Miranda warnings, though, is that they require you to be in custody for them to be given. Like a lot of things in the law, custody is a concept that seems like it should be obvious, but is actually an incredibly complex issue.
What is Custody?
If it were possible to boil down the concept of custody into one sentence, that sentence would probably go something like this: Custody is a meaningful interference with your ability to move freely.
Unfortunately, this idea of what custody means would probably only work for the most obvious instances of an arrest, like if you're being pressed to a wall by a police officer, or when the handcuffs click together, pinning your hands behind your back. In both of these situations, you are clearly in custody. But what about other situations?
Because nearly every arrest implicates a set of unique facts, the idea of when someone gets taken into “custody” has to be flexible. However, this makes it difficult to easily determine if a custody happened, or at what point it happened.
Is a Police Chase Custody?
One situation where custody can be difficult to determine is during a police chase.
For example, imagine someone is standing at a street corner in a city. Police officers are sitting in a cruiser nearby, and watch as another car pulls up to the man and they exchange money for a handful of packets. When the police drive up, the man on the corner turns and runs down the street. The police follow in their car, driving parallel with the running man on the sidewalk, without putting on their sirens, demanding that he stop, or brandishing weapons.
In this case, which went before the Supreme Court, it was determined that the suspect had not been taken into custody by the police car, driving alongside him.
How the Complexities Surrounding Custody Impact Your Miranda Rights
The complexities surrounding if or when custody happens are deep and nuanced. Unfortunately, this impacts if or when you should receive your Miranda warnings, which inform you of your rights to an attorney or to remain silent. These warnings have to happen before any interrogation that happens while you are in police custody. If it's difficult to determine whether you were actually in police custody, then it becomes difficult to tell if your Miranda rights were violated.
Maine Criminal Defense Attorney William T. Bly
The lack of clarity surrounding if or when you were taken into custody showcase the need to have a solid criminal defense attorney at your side, if you're facing criminal charges. William T. Bly has established a reputation as a strong defense attorney, with experience in DUI-defense and other criminal charges in the southern Maine area. Contact his Biddeford law office at (207) 571-8146 or contact him online.