What Are Miranda Rights?
Simply stated, Miranda Rights or Miranda Warnings are the right to silence that a person must be given by the police when they become a criminal suspect and are placed into police custody. The purpose of the warnings is to protect the statements that a person makes while being interrogated, that may be used against them in the criminal prosecution of their case.
The four specific rights that law enforcement must convey to a suspect in custody are:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to an attorney.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
Why Do We Have These Rights?
The right against self-incrimination is afforded to us by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The right to an attorney is similarly afforded to us by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. The problem is that just because we have these fundamental rights it doesn’t mean that everyone knows about them. In the Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme court held that admission of incriminating statements elicited by law enforcement from a suspect in their custody who is NOT INFORMED OF THESE RIGHTS violates both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Hence the formation of Miranda Rights.
Misconceptions About Miranda Rights
Most people are under the misconception that Miranda Rights must be read to you when you are arrested. This is not true. Failure to have you rights read to you during an arrest does not invalidate the arrest.
Rather, these rights must be conveyed to you only if you are in police custody and if the police intend to question you about why you are under arrest in order to elicit incriminating statements from you. In other words if the police catch you doing something, don’t feel they need to question you any further because they already have enough evidence against you, then they can just arrest you and go forward with the case based on what they have.
An example of this would be any case where the police obtain evidence of intoxication for the purpose of establishing that you were under the influence when you were driving your car. This could be a DUI case, a vehicular assault case, etc. Typically the police in these cases work to obtain evidence of you intoxication through field sobriety tests, breathalyzer tests, and blood draws. If they obtain enough against you through any or all of these methods then they can proceed without asking you any questions that might incriminate you.
Note that typically you are given your Miranda rights in all cases once taken into custody. This was only meant as an example to illustrate my point.
Once you are taken back to the police station and they begin to question you about the incident, that is when they must advise you of your Miranda Rights. If not, anything that they elicit from you should not be able to be used against you in court.
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Stryder J. Wegener is the author of this article, the co-founder of Emerald City Law Group, and a damn good criminal defense attorney.