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All About Your Miranda Rights

January 8, 2021

Miranda rights are among the most widely recognized legal concepts, thanks to movies and television shows, but they are also some of the most widely misunderstood for the same reason. “You have the right to remain silent,” has been uttered during arrest scenes of countless programs, but those shows don’t always reflect the reality of when Miranda rights are typically read during the course of an arrest and how they apply to you if you are being investigated or charged for a crime. Miranda rights loom large during the early stages of a case, and they can have a significant impact on your trial if your case goes to court. Your criminal defense attorney will look closely at how and when your Miranda rights were presented to you in police custody to ensure you were provided the right information at the right time. 

What are Miranda Rights?

Miranda rights are granted in the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, which gives people the right to refuse to self-incriminate themselves during a criminal investigation and their right to have an attorney present for questioning. 

These rights gained their name after the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona. In this case, Ernesto Miranda confessed to rape, kidnapping, and robbery after being interrogated for two hours without being advised of his rights to an attorney and to avoid self-incrimination. He was convicted of the crime, but his attorneys argued that he was deprived of his Fifth Amendment rights. In addition, with a history of mental instability and an eight-grade education, Miranda was not competent to make informed decisions about his defense during interrogation. The Supreme Court agreed and mandated that officers must advise suspects of their Fifth Amendment rights before interrogation. 

What is the Miranda Warning?

The Miranda warning is the set of statements officers use to advise suspects of their Miranda rights. The warning, which is familiar from pop culture, says:

 

  • 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.

Essentially, these rights mean that you do not have to say anything when you are under police questioning and that you can request that an attorney be present during police interrogation. It is important to note that the warning does not require you to stay silent or to have an attorney, and officers may still try to convince you to talk without a lawyer, in hopes you will say something that can be used to build a case against you. 

When is the Miranda warning used?

On television and in movies, the Miranda warning is almost always issued at the time of arrest. In reality, this is not usually the case. Officers can arrest or detain you and transport you to jail without reading you your rights. In real life, Miranda warnings are used before custodial interrogation—or adversarial interrogation—begins. This means you are in police custody and are being questioned in connection to a crime. If you are not advised of your rights before this kind of interrogation, anything you say may be thrown out of your criminal case. 

However, just because you haven’t been read your Miranda rights, doesn’t mean you can say anything you want without fear of it being used against you. If you say something incriminating when you are being transported to jail, for instance, it can be used against you in your case because you weren’t being interrogated. Officers were not yet obligated to tell your rights at that point. For this reason, it is usually best to stay quiet when arrested, except for providing your name and ID, if asked. 

What does your criminal defense attorney need to know about your Miranda warning?

If you are arrested and interrogated, one of the things your criminal defense attorney will focus on is when you were given your Miranda warning. If you have said anything incriminating,  your attorney will assess when you made your statement in relation to being informed of your rights. If you talk after being read your rights, then you are assumed to have waived those rights and the information you provided will usually be admissible. However, if you said something before receiving your warning, your attorney will try to prove that the incriminating conversation was actually an interrogation in which you should have been advised of your right to remain silent. 

Do not try to deal with an arrest and questioning alone. You need a strong defense attorney at your side from the start of your case to protect your rights. Janet Altschuler has been fighting for the rights of the people of Tucson for more than two decades and has the experience to get the best outcome for your case. For a criminal defense lawyer in Tucson, call Janet Altschuler at (520) 829-4460.