December 12, 2022 | Criminal Law
If you watch any police procedural TV show, you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court.” This phrase, along with the rest of the Miranda warning, is something that everyone in the United States has the right to hear before being interrogated by police. But what exactly are Miranda rights, and how do they protect you?
What Are Miranda Rights?
Miranda rights are a constitutional safeguard against self-incrimination. In other words, they exist to protect your Fifth Amendment right not to say anything that could be used against you in a criminal trial.
The Miranda warning must be given by law enforcement before any custodial interrogation can take place. That means that if you’re in police custody and the police want to question you about a crime, they must first read you your Miranda rights.
Custodial interrogation means more than just being questioned after you’re under arrest—it also includes any time when a reasonable person would believe that they were not free to leave.
For example, if a police officer handcuffs someone or draws their weapon and then starts asking questions about a crime, it’s likely that a court would find that the person is now in custody. Accordingly, Miranda Rights would have been required, even if they weren’t “under arrest.”
Similarly, interrogation doesn’t just mean formal questioning—it also includes any actions taken by the police that are likely to elicit an incriminating response from the defendant. For example, if an officer tells a suspect who is in custody that they have failed a lie detector test, that might be considered interrogation because it’s likely to elicit incriminating testimony.
You Have the Right To Remain Silent
The first and most famous part of the Miranda warning is the instruction that you have the right to remain silent. This means that you don’t have to answer any questions asked by police, no matter how innocuous they may seem. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, so it’s best to keep your mouth shut.
You Have the Right To an Attorney
The second part of the Miranda warning informs you that you have the right to an attorney. You can ask for a lawyer at any time during questioning, and the police are required to stop questioning you until an attorney is present. If you can’t afford your own criminal defense lawyer, one will be appointed for you by the court.
Implications of Waiving Your Miranda Rights
If you waive your Miranda rights (i.e., agree to talk to police without an attorney present), anything you say can still be used against you in court. Also, keep in mind that anything found as a result of information gleaned from your statements can still be admissible as evidence.
For example, if you tell police where they can find drugs or a weapon, those items can be used as evidence against you even if the police would not have otherwise discovered them.
No Miranda Warnings Are Required in Some Situations
It’s important to understand that there are some exceptions to the general rule that Miranda warnings must be given prior to questioning by police.
For example, Miranda warnings do not need to be given if:
- The questioning is non-custodial, meaning you are free to leave at any time and are not under arrest
- You spontaneously volunteer information without any prompting by the police
- The officers are asking questions designed to elicit an emergency response (e.g., “Is anyone else inside the burning building?”)
In each of these situations, Miranda warnings are not required because your Fifth Amendment rights are not considered to be in jeopardy.
What Happens If the Police Don’t Read You Your Miranda Rights?
If the police question you without reading you your Miranda rights, anything you say during questioning may not be used as evidence against you. However, this does not mean that the case against you will be automatically dismissed. The prosecution may still have other evidence against you, such as physical evidence or the testimony of witnesses, that can be used to convict you.
If you’ve been arrested or questioned by the police, a Lexington criminal defense attorney can protect your rights.
Contact the Lexington Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
Suhre & Associates, LLC – Lexington
333 West Vine Street #212
Lexington, KY 40507