Every person has rights that are protected by the Constitution and case law. Law enforcement has an obligation to honor those rights, which means officers must follow certain rules before infringing on your rights. For example, the Fourth Amendment prevents officers from contacting citizens without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is in the process of being committed. The Fifth Amendment and a case called Miranda prevents officers from interrogating someone who is in custody without advising that person of his or her right to remain silent and right to have an attorney.
James Holmes, the suspect in the Aurora theater shooting, has recently received more media attention because his attorneys have asked that the judge apply “heightened standards of fairness” in his case because he is facing the death penalty. There is some speculation that this request has come because Holmes spoke with the police on a couple of occasions without receiving his Miranda advisement, an advisement that requires police to inform a person that he or she has the right to remain silent, that statements may be used against him or her in court and that he or she has a right to an attorney.
The law, not only as it applies to Holmes, but as it applies to all citizens has carved out certain exceptions to the requirement that the police Mirandize people when they are in custody and being interrogated. At issue in Holmes’ case is the public safety exception. The public safety exception allows police to question a person regarding issues of public safety, but does not allow the police to question a person generally about a crime. If the court were to decide that the public safety exception applies, then Holmes’ statements to the police would be admissible at trial. If, however, the court were to decide that the public safety exception did not apply and Holmes should have been Mirandized, then his statements would not be admissible at trial.
While there are exceptions to the requirement that law enforcement provide people with a Miranda advisement, exceptions are just that, an exception, not the rule. If you were contacted by police and made statements as part of a custodial interrogation, but did not receive a Miranda advisement, those statements may not be admissible, meaning the prosecution cannot use those statements against you.