Anyone who has a TV and a vague understanding of how our legal system works has heard of Miranda Rights, even if they do not understand what they mean. I think it is fair to say that every American has at one time or another heard the words, “You have the right to remain silent,” either from TV shows or other forms of media. Cop dramas almost never state the full Miranda Rights and most people do not fully understand when these warnings are implemented or why. Because of this, there is a misconception that if you are arrested and an officer does not recite the Miranda warnings, you can use that as an argument to get your case dismissed. This is far from true.
What Exactly Are Miranda Rights?
In 1966, numerous cases involving interrogations resulted in admissions and written statements because the defendants did not know about their rights during the interrogation process. The Supreme Court ruled that collecting this self-incriminating evidence while the suspect was unaware of his or her rights was unlawful. The Miranda warnings are a serious of statements that law enforcement officers use in order to remind suspects of these rights.
The Miranda Rights state that:
- You have the right to remain silent
- Anything you say can 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 to you
- You can invoke your right to remain silent during an interrogation
- If you invoke your right to remain silent or your right to an attorney, the interrogation must stop or stop until the attorney is present
These warnings are issued in two specific situations: when the suspect is in police custody and when the suspect is under interrogation. The police are not required to issue these warnings unless these specific situations exists.
Reality vs. Myth
Just because a police officer does not read you the Miranda warnings doesn’t mean you get a “get out of jail free” pass. In actuality, it means that the police simply cannot use anything you say as evidence against you in court. Without your rights being recited, anything you say that is self-incriminating cannot be used against you. Furthermore, if you say something that leads the police to discover physical evidence of a crime; then that evidence cannot be used against you in court. Once the rights have been read and you have verbally accepted them (silence does not count as a confirmation), then what you say may be used in court.
Invoking Your Rights
It is imperative that if you are arrested you take full advantage of your rights. Do not answer questions and request an attorney. Because anything you say can be used against you, it is imperative to say nothing, even if you think it is harmless.