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What is Custodial Interrogation?

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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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Custodial interrogation refers to questioning conducted by officers of the court or law while you are in their custody. While such interrogation most commonly takes place at police stations or holding areas, custodial interrogation can occur at any time when a person's freedom is limited while he is being questioned. For example, a custodial interrogation can occur in the back of a police car, in a hospital room or any place else where a law enforcement official is asking questions of a person who feels restricted or unable to depart.

In the United States, there are several rules for custodial interrogation. First, various constitutional protections exist. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution protects a person from self incrimination, for example, while the Due Process Clause in the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments ensures that no person is deprived of his rights to life and liberty — even the liberty to walk away from a custodial interrogation — without due process of the law.

The Supreme Court has also extended additional rights to a person who is to be subject to such interrogation. Under Miranda v. Arizona, a person must be read his rights before he is subject to a custodial interrogation. This means that, before questioning someone, the police or other law enforcement official must inform him that he has the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

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Similar protections exist for custodial interrogations in other countries as well. In Australia, the Crimes Act 1958 and the Evidence Act of 1995 protect the rights of a person being interrogated. England, Canada, all of the countries in the European Union, Israel and New Zealand also protect those who are being questioned in an official capacity. Essentially, in all these jurisdictions, police are allowed to question a person without reading him his rights, but as soon as the person is involved in a custodial interrogation and not free to leave, his rights must be made clear to him.

Custodial interrogation can involve a number of different questioning tactics. The law enforcement officials, however, cannot threaten or coerce a person into making a confession during such an interrogation and cannot physically harm or threaten a person who is being interrogated. Safeguards are normally in place and investigations are normally videotaped and/or observed by other law enforcement to ensure the rights of the person being questioned are protected. If a person's constitutional rights are violated in any way during an interrogation, then any evidence obtained during the interrogation is not permitted to be introduced in trial.

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