I was arrested last weekend for being drunk, but the cops did not read me my [Miranda] rights. Aren’t they required to read me my rights when I’m arrested?

Each weekend without fail, there is always someone who is arrested for being publicly intoxicated – drunk – and insisting that we read them their rights or they’re going to have our badges!

We’ve all seen the TV shows and movies in which immediately after the cuffs go on the bad guy, the hero reads him his rights. Wow! And all crimes get solved in 60 minutes! But that’s Hollywood, not Isla Vista or anywhere else. People often confuse what they see on TV for how the law really works.

First, a little background. In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested for stealing $8. Miranda was arrested and questioned for two hours. During the questioning, he also admitted to the kidnapping and raping of an 18-year-old girl. Miranda was never offered a lawyer while in custody. After several appeals, the case ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court [(Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The Supreme Court ruled that Miranda should have been provided the opportunity to have a lawyer and was granted a new trial without the prosecution being able to use his confession. With this ruling, the Miranda rights were created. Now, before the police begin an interrogation of an arrested suspect, they must read the suspect his or her rights to have an attorney present during questioning.

So why didn’t you get your rights read to you when you got arrested for being drunk in public? Unless you are being specifically questioned about the crime, the Miranda rights don’t apply. You still have to answer the questions about identifying who you are.

Oh, and what happened to Ernesto Miranda? He was re-tried for the kidnapping and rape and was found guilty even without the confession. About 15 years later, he was stabbed to death. The police arrested the man who stabbed him, but after invoking his Miranda rights and refusing to talk, the police had to let him go. Now that’s irony.

Why shouldn’t I just run from the cops instead of getting a ticket?

As tempting as it might seem, – you with a cup of beer, wearing shorts and sneakers, and the cop with 20 pounds of gear, wearing boots – is it really worth the risk? So if you do get away, you avoid a ticket that may have cost you a few bucks. If you get caught – and most do – you now get the ticket and another charge of resisting arrest. Instead of just a fine, you now get to spend time in jail, get a large fine and a criminal record. You also would have to answer “yes” on all of those applications that ask if you have been arrested. Do you think some future employers might have some concerns over an arrest for a serious crime like resisting arrest? If you just look at it reasonably, the potential consequences are pretty severe just to avoid a ticket.

I guess I look at it like this: As a kid, I used to run from my mom after I’d stored my pet fish in the refrigerator, brought home my report card, proved the riding lawn mower wouldn’t go through the garage wall like it did on that TV show, played racquetball using a tennis ball, combined gasoline, a wood fence and a match – don’t try that one at home – or any of the other numerous dumb things I got busted doing. The point is that even though most of the time I outran mom, I almost always got caught by dad a few hours later when he got home, and that punishment was always worse than if I had just ‘fessed up to mom in the first place. Running is tempting, but it rarely makes anything better.

Ticked off by a ticket? Party popped by the Patrol? If you have questions, don’t let them eat away at you. Ask them. Call or e-mail me anytime. Reach me at Mark.Signa@police.ucsb.edu or the Crime Prevention Office at 893-4063.