Just about everyone has seen a cop on TV on in a movie tell us suspect, “You have the right to remain silent.” What they are doing is “Mirandizing” the suspect, or explaining basic rights they have. Real life police officers often Mirandize suspects when making an arrest as well.
It is important to understand that police are not always required to give a Miranda warning to a suspect while making an arrest. Only when law enforcement plans to interrogate an individual are they expected to read them their Miranda rights. If they do not and later change their mind, they must Mirandize the suspect before beginning the interrogation.
Miranda Rights are as follows: “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 for you.”
Even though most people have heard those words on TV and movies for years, many don’t understand what they truly mean. Let’s shed some light on the subject:
- You have the right to remain silent. – This Constitutional right means that you do not have to answer questions posed to you. It is often in a defendant’s best interest to exercise this right until they have legal representation present.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. – This is meant to inform you that anything you say or do relating to a crime will be used as evidence to prove your guilt. “Can and will” is a key part of this phrase because it reinforces the fact that prosecutors will do everything in their power to harm you.
- You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. – Few people know the law and a judge will not give special treatment to an “average Joe” who decides to defend themselves; they are under equal scrutiny as any trained attorney. Because of this, individuals are allowed public defenders should they ask for an attorney.
There may be several outcomes when police fail to Mirandize a subject before questioning. In many situations it means that anything a defendant says during questioning cannot be used as evidence. Making use of your rights is the best way to advocate for yourself should you be accused of a crime – don’t be afraid to use them.