Understanding Your Miranda Rights

If you’ve spent any time watching police movies or television shows, you’ve probably heard of Miranda rights. Arising from Miranda v. Arizona, a 1966 Supreme Court decision, Miranda rights protect criminal defendants against self-incrimination. But while many individuals are familiar with these rights, they may not fully understand what exactly they mean.

A Greenville criminal defense attorney from Boatright Legal takes a look at Miranda rights, what they do, and how to properly exercise them.

The Basics of Miranda Rights

When a criminal suspect’s Miranda rights are read, that individual is given a Miranda warning. Put another way, the person is Mirandized. Miranda rights inform a suspect that certain statements made during custodial interrogation can be used in court. The warning must be read to a suspect before police questioning begins.

It tells the suspect:

  • 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 speak with an attorney and to have your attorney with you while you are being questioned.
  • If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you if you wish to have one.

These may seem pretty simple, but a number of misconceptions have grown around Miranda rights.

What to Know About Your Miranda Rights

A number of subsequent court decisions since 1966 have qualified Miranda rights. Unfortunately, they have also led to confusion over the true meaning of these rights and how to exercise them. These are a few basic facts you should know.

Not every police interaction requires a Miranda warning.

It’s a common misunderstanding that every time a police officer speaks with someone, Miranda rights must be read. But this isn’t the case. An individual must be in police custody and under interrogation before the warning has to be given.

In most cases, a routine traffic stop doesn’t meet this standard. If the police pull you over on suspicion of DUI and ask questions, for instance, you aren’t yet under arrest. The police are simply investigating a suspected crime at this point. However, it’s a good idea not to answer any questions. Hand over your driver’s license, registration, and insurance information when the officer asks, then stay silent.

Police aren’t required to read you your rights before arresting you.

Police aren’t required to read you your rights before arresting you. Law enforcement doesn’t have to Mirandize you until after you’ve been arrested and before questioning you. That means there are two criteria that must be met before police have to read you your rights.

You must be:

  • In police custody
  • Under interrogation

Suppose you are handcuffed at the police station. The police haven’t yet started interrogating you. If you blurt out a confession, it can later be used against you in court. Only when police start questioning you is it necessary to give you a Miranda warning.

Violating your Miranda rights does not require that the criminal charges be dismissed.

Another misconception is that if police fail to give a Miranda warning, the charges against the suspect must be dismissed. But Miranda rights only exist to keep suspects from incriminating themselves. That means their proper function is to keep certain statements out of court.

Your answers to police questions can be suppressed if they were obtained in violation of Miranda. But prosecutors can still pursue the charges against you using other evidence they may have.

You can stop answering questions at any time.

Even if you choose to answer police questions after being Mirandized, you can stop whenever you want. And you should. Our advice is to assert your right to remain silent, ask for an attorney, and say nothing else to police.

Let Us Help Protect Your Legal Rights

Miranda rights are critical safeguards, but it’s never a good idea to speak with police without a lawyer. The best way to protect your rights is to ask for one and then remain silent. That’s where the criminal defense team of Boatright Legal comes in. If you’re facing criminal charges of any kind, reach out to us today.

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