Most of us saw enough television to know the term Miranda rights. Some of us can even recite them from memory.
However, how many of us really know what they mean?
The following information is designed to help you better understand what your Miranda rights really entail.
The Language Used
Our Miranda rights come from the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
The Supreme Court has interpreted these provisions as requiring police officers to inform you of several rights before you can be subjected to custodial interrogations.
The following is an example of what most police officers will say when apprising you of your Miranda rights:
- “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 provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
When Miranda Rights Apply
A common misconception is that your Miranda rights are always at play. However, this is simply untrue.
Contrary to popular belief, even if a police officer arrests you, your Miranda rights may not be applicable.
Your Miranda rights will only apply if you are in custody and the police want to interrogate you.
This means a police officer does not need to provide you with Miranda warnings before arresting you (so long as he has no intention of interrogating you on the spot).
Remember, not being read your Miranda rights will never be a valid defense against being arrested.
It only becomes a valid defense (i.e. applicable) when the police try to get information out of you without first reading you Miranda warnings.
The Right to Remain Silent
Your right to remain silent is the first thing the police inform you of when reading you Miranda warnings.
By law, you do not have to talk to the police. In fact, you can sit there silently and stare the officer right in the face.
This is because you have a Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, and, as the second part of the warning explains, anything that you say can be used against you.
However, it is extremely important to recognize that this right is not as firm as we might think.
First and foremost, during a brief police encounter on the street, Miranda rights will not even help you.
In most cases, courts interpret that type of encounter as non-custodial (even if you are being interrogated), so Miranda will not apply.
Second, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that even if you invoke your right to remain silent regarding a line of questioning about one crime, police officers can question you about a different crime without violating your rights.
This means you will have to answer those questions.
Also, if the crimes are remotely related, trained officers have been known to get people to spill the beans by mistake because they thought they were answering a different question that was mandatory.
Be careful of these kinds of police tactics!
The Right to an Attorney
On the contrary, your right to an attorney is a very firm and solid right.
In fact, in almost all cases, we advise our clients to invoke this right well before the right to remain silent.
According to the Sixth Amendment, you are entitled to have an attorney present at every critical stage of a criminal investigation or proceeding, and the Supreme Court concluded that an interrogation counts as a critical stage.
This right is so firm that once you invoke it, police can no longer question you about any crime until your lawyer arrives.
In this sense, the right to counsel has the effect of a pause button.
Moreover, because the law understands that your liberty, and perhaps your life, is on the line in a criminal case, you have a right to an attorney whether you can afford one or not.
If you cannot afford an attorney, a public defender will be appointed to represent your interests.
If you can afford one, you can hire a criminal defense attorney who will be able to fight for your rights, tell your side of the story, and dedicate his time to protecting your innocence.
Who Should You Contact?
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in New Jersey, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of The Rosenblum Law Firm today. His team of New Jersey criminal defense attorneys will do what they can to protect your legal rights and fight to keep you out of prison. E-mail or call 888-815-3649 today.