“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, one will be provided to you by the court at no cost.” These are the famous Miranda rights, which almost everyone has heard of through popular media. But why do the police read you your Miranda rights when you get arrested, and what happens if they do not?
Miranda v. Arizona
The Miranda rights originate from the United States Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, in which a man accused of kidnapping and rape was allegedly forced to sign a confession against his will by police. The confession was admitted into evidence despite objections from a defense attorney, who noted that the defendant, Ernesto Miranda, had not been advised of his right to have an attorney during the police interrogation. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that he did not need to be informed of his right to an attorney, and the police had no need to respect his right to an attorney unless he specifically requested one.
The United States Supreme Court, on the other hand, disagreed. It said that a confession by a defendant is not admissible in court unless they have first been informed of their constitutional rights. This includes:
- The Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination (usually referred to as “the right to remain silent”)
- The fact that your words may be used as evidence against you.
- The Fifth and Sixth Amendments’ rights to counsel (“the right to an attorney”)
- The fact that the court will provide a defense attorney if you cannot afford one.
What Does it Mean to be Mirandized?
If you are arrested by a police officer, they are supposed to read you your Miranda rights, as stated above. Once you have been “Mirandized,” your statements to them can be admitted as evidence in court. This includes any admissions you make that may potentially incriminate you, such as a signed confession to an alleged crime.
As part of this process, many police jurisdictions will have a suspect sign a card, indicating they have been made aware of their rights. This card acts as evidence proving you were Mirandized and that any statement you make is admissible. It also often acts as a waiver of those rights, allowing police to talk to you without an attorney present and without needing to worry about you invoking your right to remain silent.
How Do You Exercise Your Miranda Rights?
Despite all of the above, the police have no obligation to tell you that you should exercise your Miranda rights once they have Mirandized you. If you do not want to talk to the police for fear that you may say something that incriminates yourself, or if you want to have an attorney present while you speak to an attorney, you need to tell them that specifically. Simply refusing to say anything to them is not the same thing as invoking your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and they have no requirement to let you contact a lawyer unless you ask for one.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a criminal offense, you will need legal counsel to help you preserve your rights and work to get the best possible outcome for your matter. 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.