Statements by the Defendant

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides all persons with the privilege against self-incrimination. In practical terms, this means that persons accused of crimes cannot be forced to respond to questioning and/or testify against themselves.

In order to guarantee that the privilege against self-incrimination is upheld, the United States Supreme Court established what is now generally known as the Miranda Rule or Miranda Warnings. Before undergoing custodial interrogation by a law enforcement officer, the suspect must be informed of his rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The suspect is also to be informed that anything the suspect does say can be used against him in Court. Furthermore, the suspect is to be advised that if he cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to him. The Miranda Warnings are so named because the United States Supreme Court established these rules in the case of Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436.

The Miranda Rule generally precludes the use of statements from the suspect that result from custodial (i.e., police) interrogation unless the proper procedural safeguards have been complied with. This means that the following statements may be used against the suspect in Court: (1) statements made by the suspect that are not made during custodial interrogation, and (2) statements made by the suspect during custodial interrogation provided that the suspect has been made aware of his rights.

Statements made by a suspect are often extremely useful in proving that the suspect has committed a crime. For example, a suspect may make an admission of guilt in an attempt to obtain leniency, only to deny making such a statement when he is later charged with a crime. Additionally, under questioning, a suspect may make contradictory statements. Contradictory statements can be used to establish that the suspect is prone to telling lies. If the suspect is proven to be a liar at trial, then he will not be believed if he denies committing the crime.

Due to the importance of a suspect’s statements, the security officer should try to write down any statements he/ she hears the suspect make. The security officer should do his best to write down those statements in a report as accurately as possible. The security officer may wish to refresh his/ her memory at a later date regarding what statements the suspect made.

LESSON: Whenever possible, try to document the exact words used. Oral statements made by a person outside of the courtroom are often considered hearsay, and are thus not admissible. However, a statement by a party that amounts to an “admission,” – a statement against his interest – is considered non-hearsay. It is fully admissible!

Thus, getting the exact wording is important to determine the admissibility. Write it down as soon as you have a reasonable opportunity to do so while it is fresh in your mind.