Florida Appeals Court Throws Out Sex Crime Defendant’s Statements

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…” You have probably heard this recitation on legal procedural TV shows dozens (or hundreds) of times. This is called the “Miranda” warning. The purpose is to give potential criminal defendants an understanding of their rights. It was named after the Supreme Court case that mandated that law enforcement give this announcement before questioning defendants.

Florida Miranda Requirements

Florida law requires that police give the Miranda warning when a defendant is arrested or taken into custody. It is such an important requirement, in fact, that any information admitted by the defendant before the Miranda warning is given may not be admissible in court. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule.

Initially, Miranda warnings only need to be given to potential defendants after someone is taken into custody. So if the police stop you on the street and ask you questions – and you are free to leave at any time – they do not need to give you the warning. However, if you are arrested and brought into the station, then your Miranda rights need to be given to you before you are interrogated. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily apply to statements that you make voluntarily and without being asked.

Defendants also do not need to be given their Miranda rights for their statements to be used against them when they are suspected of a traffic violation or loitering. In those circumstances the police are allowed to ask for identification and vehicle registration (for traffic infractions), and ask other routine questions without giving the suspects a Miranda warning. Finally, the other circumstance is when there is an imminent threat, like terrorism or another threat of violence. For obvious reasons, the police are also not required to give a Miranda warning but any information that the defendant gives them, whether asked or not, can likely be used in court.

Miranda and Capacity

In a case recently heard by the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, a defendant successfully argued that his confession should be thrown out due to his not being competent at the time he waived his Miranda rights. The defendant was 18 years old when he was charged with capital sexual battery and lewd or lascivious molestation. When he was arrested he was brought into the interrogation room and given his Miranda rights. He indicated that he understood the warnings and he signed a waiver form, which is standard.

At one point during the interrogation the defendant confessed to the crimes. However, soon after this confession the defendant was found to have intellectual disabilities and was determined to be not competent to proceed by four different licensed psychologists. They testified that he was unable to understand his Miranda rights.

The court here held that the confession should be suppressed as the defendant was not able to understand the rights he was waiving. They underscored that waiver of the rights is only valid when “made voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently.” Thus, the defendant’s confession should be suppressed and the conviction was reversed and the case remanded for a new trial.

Contact an Experienced Clearwater Sex Crimes Criminal Defense Attorney Today!

Defendants have rights, but they need a skilled Clearwater sex crimes criminal defense attorney to make sure that their rights are respected. The attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm will zealously defend you against any allegations and make sure your rights are respected.. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with our attorneys about your case.

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