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Miranda rights: about as central as it gets in criminal law

Let's talk Miranda today.

And every so often in future posts.

Here's why, in a nutshell: It hardly seems arguable that the importance of setting forth the basics of this fundamental criminal law precept and periodically revisiting it in a criminal defense blog is imperative.

And that is logically so for subject matter that centrally relates to situations where police officers can place an individual into custody and interrogate him or her regarding an alleged nexus to criminal activity, whether that is a drug crime, theft offense, sexual assault or anything else.

That is very serious stuff, of course, and immediately relevant to any person in North Carolina or nationally who could conceivably be detained by enforcement officials and asked questions that implicate crime-related involvement or activity.

In other words, that makes Miranda relevant in a crystal-clear sense to every American, because face-to-face police contact is hardly an unthinkable scenario for any person.

Most people know something about Miranda, given its front-and-center presence across a generation of cop shows and crime dramas on television and in the movies, respectively.

But what does it really mean? What is its role in citizen-police interactions?

As noted in an online overview of Miranda and its criminal law applications, Miranda rights kick in at the point an individual is in police custody and being interrogated about a criminal matter.

That begs some obvious questions, right? What is "custody?" When does an interrogation commence, and how does it differ -- if at all -- from a question or two posed by a police officer?

Such questions can be thorny and problematic, indeed, and legions of law school students have lost sleep pondering them.

For purposes of a blog post, it might simply be instructive to advise any individual having questions or concerns about police interactions to contact a proven criminal defense attorney.

It is also important to note that one should be aware of - and USE! - their right to remain silent if they are questioned while not in custody (sometimes called "voluntary contact" or "we just want to hear your side of the story").

In other words, whether in or out of custody, do NOT, repeat, DO NOT, talk to law enforcement about anything that may remotely by considered criminal conduct.  And assume that if law enforcement is talking to you, that it is about criminal conduct. 

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