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Miranda Rights – Your Right to Remain Silent

Miranda Rights – Your Right to Remain Silent

If you have ever watched law enforcement drama shows on television such as “Cops,” you have likely heard about the Miranda rights being read to someone. This common phrase starts with “you have the right to remain silent.” In these shows, the police officers routinely read people their rights when they take them into custody. You may be unfamiliar with why the Miranda warnings are read and what they are meant to protect. Here is what you need to know about your Miranda rights when you are stopped and questioned by the police in Arizona. Keep in mind, if facing charges, speaking with a defense attorney could mean the difference between freedom and incarceration.

This article discusses:

  • What are your Miranda Rights and How do they protect you?
  • When do they have to be read to you?
  • What if the Police didn’t read your Miranda Rights?
  • What is Self-Incrimination?
  • If you chose to remain silent, can it be used against you?

What Are Your Miranda Rights?

The Miranda rights are your constitutional rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. A reading of these rights is known as a Miranda warning, and it comes from the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). In the Mirandacase, police officers went to the home of Ernesto Miranda, who was suspected of stealing $8 from a bank worker. They asked him to go with them to the police station for questioning. While he was being questioned, he admitted to rape and kidnapping and signed a statement of admission. He was subsequently tried for the kidnapping and rape and was convicted. Miranda appealed his case through the Arizona and federal court systems, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear it.

The Supreme Court of the United States returned a five to four decision in favor of Miranda. The justices ruled that since Miranda had been in the custody of the police at the time that he made the inculpatory statements, the statements that he made could not be used against him because he was not advised of his constitutional rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, including the right against self-incrimination, the right to an attorney, and the right to remain silent. Since this decision, all states, including Arizona, have rules for police to give Miranda warnings, which people call their Miranda rights. If you are interrogated by the police, they may read you your rights.

Your Miranda rights are a set of clear statements that tell you about the constitutional rights that you have. They include the following statements:

  • “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 one, an attorney will be provided to you.”

If you are interrogated without having your Miranda rights read to you, any inculpatory or exculpatory statements that you might make will not be able to be used against you as evidence.

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How Do Your Miranda Rights Protect You?

Some people mistakenly believe that if the police officers fail to read them their Miranda rights, they will be off of the hook. However, this is not true. Your Miranda rights stand to give you notice of the rights that you can assert under the Constitution, including your right to not speak, your right to hire an attorney or to be appointed an attorney, and your right against self-incrimination. This means that you can tell the officer after you have been Mirandized that you do not want to talk and want to have an attorney. If you tell the officer that, the questioning must immediately stop.

Your Miranda rights allow you to have a lawyer present to represent you during any questioning by the police. This is important because police officers often elicit problematic statements from criminal defendants that the prosecution can later use as evidence against them at trial. Some people who are charged with or suspected of crimes have the mistaken idea that they can talk their way out of being charged. This is never a good idea, and people should exercise the rights that they have. Unless you validly waive your Miranda rights, any inculpatory statements that you might make to the police during a custodial interrogation may be suppressed as evidence if you were not Mirandized.


When do the Police have to Read You Your Miranda Rights?

Police officers must read you your Miranda rights when they detain you. Being detained means that you are not free to leave. To try to get around this, police officers will frequently tell people that they are free to go at any time. However, many people do not feel that they can leave when an officer is trying to question them.

You do not have to be in jail or in an interrogation room for the Miranda requirements to kick in. The police must read these rights to you as soon as they try to question you while you are in their custody. The police may have to read you your rights at the scene of a crime or anywhere that you are stopped and are not free to leave. Police officers sometimes try to get people to make inculpatory statements so that they do not have to read them their rights. Statements made when you are not in police custody can be used against you.

You are not required to answer the questions that you are asked by police officers prior to being arrested. You can simply tell the officers that you want to stay silent and that you want a lawyer. However, you must provide certain types of information to police officers when they ask for it such as your identification and insurance information during a traffic stop, for example.

After your arrest, it is a good idea to assert your constitutional rights to remain silent and to an attorney. Police officers cannot continue to question you once you assert your rights. This can help to prevent you from making statements that could be problematic for you in your case.


What if the Police Did Not Read You Your Miranda Rights?

Miranda rights are not always required. For example, if you are not in custody, the police do not have to read these rights and you and can use anything that you say against you in a subsequent criminal case. However, once you are in custody, the police must read you your rights before they attempt to question you. If they don’t, anything that you say to them cannot be used against you as evidence in your case. This does not mean that you cannot be charged and prosecuted for a crime, however.

If an involuntary admission is made without a Miranda warning by someone who is in police custody, any evidence that police find because of the statement will also likely be inadmissible. For example, if you are subjected to a custodial interrogation about a shooting without a Miranda warning and you admit that you were the shooter and tell the police where they can find the gun, both your statement and the gun will likely be suppressed by the judge.

How Might an Officer’s Failure to Read Miranda Rights Help a Criminal Case?

If a police officer failed to Mirandize you before subjecting you to questioning while you were in his or her custody, any inculpatory statements that you might have made will not be allowed to be used as evidence against you. In a criminal case, an officer’s failure to give Miranda warnings to you after he or she placed you under arrest may mean that the state will have less evidence to rely on in its case against you. We have seen this happen numerous times and have been able to have entire cases dismissed because of a Miranda rights violation. If the police discovered additional evidence because of the statement, it may also be suppressed. However, the prosecution can still rely on other evidence that it has to prove its case.

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What is Self-Incrimination?

Self-incrimination occurs when you make statements that implicate you for a crime. You may incriminate yourself voluntarily or while you are being interrogated. Under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you have the right to not be forced to incriminate yourself. Incriminatory statements that you make can be used against you if you make them freely and voluntarily. They can also be used against you if you make them during an interrogation after you have waived your Miranda rights.

Can Your Choice to Remain Silent be Used Against You?

If you invoke your right to remain silent, your decision not to answer the questions of the police cannot be used against you as evidence that you are guilty. In Griffin v. California, 380 U.S. 609 (1965), the U.S. Supreme Court held that judges and prosecutors may not tell a jury that someone asserted his or her right to remain silent as evidence that they are guilty. This means that telling the police that you want to stay silent will not hurt you in your case. By contrast, choosing to talk and to answer the police officer’s questions may very well harm you in a subsequent criminal proceeding against you.


How are Miranda Rights Waived?

You can waive your Miranda rights either explicitly or implicitly. An express waiver of your rights might occur when you allow yourself to be questioned and answer the questions that you are asked after you have been Mirandized. It can also include signing a waiver of your Miranda rights that may be presented to you by the police. You can also waive your Miranda rights by simply staying silent. Unless you tell the police that you are invoking your right to remain silent, your Miranda rights can be considered to be waived.

In Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370 (2010), the U.S. Supreme Court held that your right to remain silent can be waived if you do not specifically invoke it. In that case, Berghuis was suspected of murder. He stayed silent during his interrogation, which lasted for several hours. At the end of it, the police officer who was conducting the interrogation asked him if he prayed, if he believed in God, and if he was sorry for killing the victim. Berghuis answered yes to each of those questions. The Supreme Court found that he had implicitly waived his Miranda rights because he never invoked his right to remain silent.

The key takeaway from that case is that it is important for you to orally invoke your rights when you are being questioned by police. Telling them that you want to stay silent and want an attorney will end the interrogation. Doing so can also help to prevent you from incriminating yourself and harming your case.


Speak to an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are stopped and questioned by the police, you do have the right to remain silent. It is better for you if you refuse to answer questions and request a lawyer. To learn more about your rights and how to protect yourself, schedule a consultation with the criminal defense attorneys at DM Cantor today by calling us at 602.307.0808.

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