If you’ve ever seen a film or television show in which a police officer arrested someone, you probably heard them tell the suspect “you have the right to remain silent.” Why must law enforcement officials do this?
This phrase forms part of what’s called a Miranda warning. If an officer fails to give you this warning before interrogating you, any information you give them may end up being inadmissible. The Miranda rules are based on your rights under the US Constitution.
Here, we take a closer look at Miranda rights, outlining what you can expect a police officer to say before interrogating you and how to ensure your rights aren’t violated.
What Are Your Miranda Rights?
During the course of an arrest, an officer will usually inform you that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. They will also tell you that anything you choose to say can and will be used against you later, and that an attorney will be provided for you if you cannot afford to pay for legal representation yourself.
The arresting officer must confirm that you understand these statements before interrogating you. Silence is not an acceptable indication that a suspect comprehends what’s happening; not everyone who is placed under arrest in America understands English. Therefore, officers require a clear response in the affirmative before they can continue.
You must get the chance to speak privately with your legal counsel before undergoing questioning, and to have your lawyer present throughout questioning. The right to remain silent remains in place during interrogations and criminal trials; when you hear someone saying they “plead the Fifth,” they’re invoking this right.
In Minnesota, there is the added requirement that all questioning, including any waiver of rights, must be electronically recorded.
Where Do Miranda Rights Come From?
The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution grants citizens the right not to “be a witness” against themselves, which is where the right to remain silent arises from. The Sixth Amendment, which deals with trial proceedings, guarantees the “Assistance of Counsel” to anyone under criminal prosecution. The legally mandated Miranda warning ensures that defendants are made aware of these rights before they undergo prosecution.
The Miranda warning came about after the 1966 US Supreme Court case of Miranda vs. Arizona. The nation’s highest court overturned the defendant’s conviction, which came about after he provided oral and written confessions, ruling that his Fifth Amendment rights had been violated during questioning.
What Happens If Your Miranda Rights Are Violated?
Firstly, you should note that the police only need to “Mirandize” you if they want to interrogate you. Officers will frequently read suspects their rights at the time of arrest, but they can legally detain you without doing so if they’re not asking any questions. This often happens in cases of suspects who pose a danger to the public at the time of their arrest.
However, if you are interrogated before an officer has read you a Miranda warning, any information you divulge may be inadmissible as evidence. This means the prosecutor in your case will unable to use it against you.
This rule does not apply if you voluntarily confess to a crime before anyone has a chance to read you a Miranda warning. It also does not apply if you’re not under arrest; if a police officer questions you before detaining you, anything you tell them could be used as evidence. That’s why it’s crucial to remember that you can walk away from the police at any time if you haven’t been placed under arrest.
Following on from this point, if you’re under questioning for a potential DWI offense, this rule will not apply to you right away. If an officer pulls you over, they do not need to issue a Miranda warning to ask, for example, whether you’ve been drinking.
Protecting Yourself During & After an Arrest
Tragically, America’s prison system houses plenty of inmates that ended up behind bars because of a miscarriage of justice. To make sure you keep yourself safe in an arrest situation, you need to know what to expect and how to act, and upholding your Miranda rights is a fundamental part of that.
If you think the Miranda warning may be relevant to your case, we can help. Contact us today and we’ll give you an initial case evaluation for free.