Understanding and Asserting Your Miranda Rights

Even when you are arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, you still have rights under the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth and Sixth Amendments specifically spell out the fair treatment that you should expect to receive while under arrest. You have the right to representation by an attorney, and you do not need to respond to questions from the police.

Following a 1966 Supreme Court decision in the matter of Miranda v. Arizona, police must inform you of your constitutional rights upon your arrest. These are called Miranda rights, named after the Supreme Court case, and the warning that the police must give is called the Miranda warning.

Even if you have never been arrested, the Miranda warning probably sounds familiar to you because you have heard it in movies and on TV shows. In the interest of verisimilitude, screenwriters include Miranda warnings in their fiction when a character is under arrest. The exact warning given can vary slightly depending on the jurisdiction. However, it must always include four basic parts.

1. Right To Remain Silent

The Fifth Amendment protects you against self-incrimination, meaning that you do not need to admit to committing a crime, nor do you need to answer questions from the police. Ironically, you do need to verbally assert your Fifth Amendment rights by saying something to the effect of, “I wish to remain silent.”

2. Anything You Say Can Be Used Against You

If you choose not to remain silent following your arrest, any statements that you make are admissible in court as evidence. It is not considered hearsay if you express it yourself.

3. You Have the Right to an Attorney

If you cannot afford an attorney, the court can appoint one to represent you at the government’s expense. This is a requirement if the charge against you could result in incarceration if convicted. You also have the right to hire your own lawyer if you have the means, or you can choose to have no lawyer and represent yourself.

4. You Can Waive Your Miranda Rights

Once you have been informed of your rights, you can choose to waive them. In other words, you may refuse legal representation and choose to respond to questions the police ask during an interrogation. However, you have to be aware of what you are doing, and you must do so voluntarily, without coercion from interrogators.

On the other hand, if you wish to stop an interrogation by asserting your Miranda rights, you must say so explicitly.

If you believe that your rights may have been violated during your arrest, a Bloomington, IL criminal lawyer may be able to help you. Contact a law office for more information.

Thanks to Pioletti, Pioletti & Nichols for their insight into criminal law and asserting your miranda rights.