Carroll County Times
Carroll County Crime

Police don't need to read Miranda rights to arrest, charge someone with crime

When Sean Cratty arrived before the commissioners at the Carroll County District Court, he was confused. He had been detained, he said, by officers who never told him he was being arrested and never read him his Miranda rights.

Despite the common misconception about Miranda rights, officers are not required by law to read the rights just because someone is arrested, said Michael Braudes, a supervising attorney in the Appellate Division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.


Most people know Miranda rights, or Miranda warnings, as the spiel on crime dramas that starts, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."

The rights then advise suspects that an attorney will be provided to them if they cannot afford one and then asks whether they are still willing to speak with the officer.


While crime shows usually depict an officer reading the Miranda rights every time someone is being handcuffed, in reality, officers are required to read them only when a person is in custody and is being interrogated, Braudes said.

Miranda rights stem from a 1966 appeal by a defendant, Ernesto Miranda, who confessed to crimes during police interrogation.

Braudes said Miranda warnings were created as a way to counteract the psychological stress that comes from feeling like a person cannot leave.

"So in a nutshell, Miranda does not apply just because someone is arrested," Braudes said.

Cratty, 29, of the 1200 block of Fairway Drive in Westminster, was arrested and charged March 29 with multiple drug counts, but was released after he posted $7,500 bond.

Cratty pleaded not guilty with agreement to the statement of facts on July 11. A judge gave him probation before judgment, with one year of supervised and two years of unsupervised probation for a count of marijuana possession. The remaining charges were abandoned by the state, according to electronic court records.

Cratty said the charges came as a slight surprise because he said he was never told he was being arrested, only detained, and never read his Miranda rights.

"Nobody told me what I was being charged with until I talked with the [court] commissioners," Cratty said.


Cratty was arrested after a Maryland State Police trooper issued him a traffic citation for leaving his car unattended while running in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven in the 4200 block of Md. 27, near Taylorsville.

As the trooper was issuing the citation, he smelled marijuana coming from Cratty's car, according to a statement of probable cause.

Cratty turned over a bag containing about half an ounce, or 14 grams, of the drug. As Cratty handed the trooper the bag, the trooper observed a prescription bottle with its label ripped off in the center console, according to the statement.

After the trooper did an initial search of the vehicle, he placed Cratty in handcuffs and called the Sheriff's Office, Cratty said.

"The trooper put me in handcuffs and said I was being detained. I said, 'OK.' He said, 'You're not being arrested,' just 'you're being detained.' And I said, 'OK,'" Cratty said.

The trooper then conducted a probable cause search of the vehicle, finding another bottle without a label that contained 18 oxycodone pills, 13 alprazolam pills and five amphetamine salts. The trooper also found a bag containing more than 20 grams of marijuana, according to the statement.


Cratty said he was placed in a Sheriff's Office car and taken to the detention center but was not read his Miranda rights or told why he was being arrested.

Cratty did not need to be read his Miranda rights because he was not being questioned, said Detective Sgt. Padraic Lacy, a spokesman for Maryland State Police, the agency that arrested Cratty. The police were able to conduct their investigation based off their probable cause search of Cratty's vehicle, Lacy said.

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In many cases, police forces have a Miranda waiver form that they will use to indicate that the warnings have been read, Braudes said. But the Miranda rights need only be read to those in custody and being questioned.

People have a misconception of Fifth Amendment rights because of television shows, said Brian DeLeonardo, the state's attorney for Carroll County.

If someone is detained and questioned without having their Miranda rights read, it does not mean that they get a free pass on the charges, he said.

Instead, it means that a defense lawyer could look to get the statements suppressed, Braudes said. In some cases, if the state has enough witnesses or evidence, the statements from the defendant may not matter, DeLeonardo said.