If you watch TV and movies, you’ve probably seen actors playing law enforcement officials reading suspects their Miranda Rights.
The term Miranda Warning is a reference to your constitutional right to get specific warnings if a law enforcement official detains and then interrogates you. The warning comes from the Fifth Amendment—the right against self-incrimination, and the Sixth Amendment—the right to legal counsel.
In 1966, the Supreme Court decided on the Miranda requirement requiring that people know their rights in the Miranda v. Arizona decision. In this decision, the court ruled someone must be made aware of particular rights if a law enforcement official is questioning them and they’re in custody. This scenario is also known as a custodial interrogation.
The following are facts about your Miranda Rights and what you should know.
1. What’s a Miranda Warning?
A Miranda Warning is a reference to the rights you have constitutionally to receive certain warnings if a law enforcement officer is detaining and interrogating you. The rights that are explained to you as part of the Miranda Warning include the following:
- Your right to remain silent (this protects your right against self-incrimination)
- The right to talk with a lawyer (protecting your right to legal counsel and representation)
- Your right to have a lawyer with you during an interrogation or questioning
- Statements you make or what you say can be held against you in court
- The court will provide you with a lawyer if you can’t hire one on your own
Police officer memorizes this warning because they have to provide it before a custodial interrogation.
An arresting officer will often recite the warning, too, even if they aren’t intending to ask the person any questions when they’re making the arrest.
2. What’s Considered “In Custody”?
You can be in police custody pretty much anywhere, including if you’re standing in your front yard. When you’re in police custody, it means you can’t leave or move around freely. The Miranda decision says that a police officer has to inform you of your rights if they’re going to question you while in custody, and they’re going to use statements you make against you in court.
If you aren’t in custody, then law enforcement officials aren’t legally required to read you the Miranda Warning.
If you’re not in police custody, anything you say can be used against you in a court setting, regardless of the Miranda Warning.
Sometimes, law enforcement officials will delay when they arrest a person because their goal is to collect evidence to use against them. Once they actually detain the person or arrest them again, they can’t use what the person says against them unless they first read them the Miranda Warning.
3. What If Your Miranda Rights Are Violated?
Even if a police officer doesn’t read someone’s Miranda Rights, the criminal case against them can still proceed. What they couldn’t do was use statements against someone in court if they were questioned while in custody and they weren’t ready for their Miranda Warning. There’s a misconception that your charges will be automatically dropped if the officer doesn’t read your Miranda Rights, and this isn’t the reality.
In a lot of cases, even though not reciting your rights could impact what can be used against you in court, a prosecutor may have enough evidence to prove guilt without using your statements.
While your charges can proceed, if an officer does interrogate you while you’re in custody and they don’t inform you of your rights, your lawyer could ultimately file a motion to suppress evidence. Then, if a judge rules in your favor on that motion, the judge might dismiss your charges, but the distinction here is that it’s not an automatic action. The judge has to rule on it.
Police officers can and do lie to people during questioning, often as part of trying to get you to say something incriminating about yourself. The more you talk, the more likely you are to do just this, so it’s best to stay fairly quiet until you have legal representation in most instances.
4. What If Public Safety Is at Risk?
If there’s an issue as far as public safety, questions can be asked without someone being first Mirandized. The evidence that’s gotten in this process can be used against a suspect. If someone is arrested, they do have to answer basic questions about their name, age, and address.
They can also be searched as a way for the officer to protect themselves.
Finally, if you confess before you read your Miranda Warning, that confession could be entered as evidence once you go to court.