If you have ever watched a law enforcement-based program on TV, like Law and Order or NCIS, chances are you’ve heard of the Miranda warning, and Miranda rights. You may even be able to recite them from memory. But why is it so important for police officers to tell suspects their Miranda rights, and what happens if an arresting officer fails to do so?
The Miranda warning refers to a set of four statements that law enforcement officers are required to tell criminal suspects, informing them of their constitutional rights. The name comes from the Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona, which created the idea that officers needed to warn suspects of their rights so they could freely exercise them. The warning goes something like the following:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can, and will, be used against you.
- You have the right to an attorney.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will provide you with one at no cost.
Aside from the practical importance of knowing your rights, the Miranda warning has an important legal purpose as well. Under Miranda v. Arizona, any testimony obtained by law enforcement from a suspect in custody, prior to giving them the Miranda warning, cannot be admitted as evidence in court. This means that, even if police officers manage to get someone to confess to a crime, that confession won’t be considered valid if it was obtained prior to telling someone their Miranda rights.
These days, to cover their legal bases, most police departments now have cards with the Miranda warning printed on them, along with a place to sign indicating you understand your rights and are knowingly waiving them. This ensures that suspects have no excuse if they choose not to exercise their right to remain silent or choose to speak to police without an attorney present. Until you waive those rights, however, you still have them, and choosing to exercise them is advisable if you’re ever placed under arrest.
If you are placed under arrest, remember to exercise your right to an attorney and get legal representation as soon as possible. A New York criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.