Why You Must Know Your “Miranda Rights”
When accused of a crime and arrested by the police the most natural emotion is fear. Unfortunately, fear often leads individuals to make dire mistakes given the circumstances and chief among those mistakes is talking to the police without an attorney.
A clear head and a knowledge of how real world cases are handled is essential in this situation. Television media has given many false impressions about what happens after an arrest as well as at trial. In television law dramas confessions are forced out of all to loose-lipped suspects and defendants are badgered into confessions on the witness stand.
In reality, a person accused of a crime has certain protective rights; rights he or she needs to know and exercise. These are commonly known as the “Miranda Rights.”
In the 1966 case Miranda v. Nevada, the Supreme Court found that: “…The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent her or him.”
The exact wording officers use can vary, but in general it is some version of the following: “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 to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”
These Miranda Rights are based on the 5th and 6th Amendments of the US Constitution which give an individual some clear rights when facing legal accusations. The right to not self-incriminate, also know as the “right to remain silent” is taken from the 5th Amendment, and the right to an attorney is taken from the 6th.
It is crucial to fully understand these rights and how/when to exercise them. The last thing you want to do is talk when you do not know what to say, how it will be used and how it will be perceived; in other words, to make statements that will be used against you. Many police officers undergo special training as interrogators regarding the Miranda warning and how to influence an accused person to waive the right. In many states police officers will specifically ask if the rights are understood and if the suspect wishes to talk. There are other tactics used to coax a statement. For instance, prior to asking the suspect a question police officers are allowed to talk at length about witness statements, evidence, etc. Then the officer will ask if the accused wishes to talk, and naturally the suspect is more likely to speak in an attempt to dispute the evidence presented.
Armed with knowledge of your rights you should absolutely refrain from giving a statement and demand to wait until you have your attorney present. A qualified and aggressive criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights and secure you fair treatment under the law.