Most Americans are familiar with the Miranda Warnings—if not by name, at least by the first few lines. They can be found in almost every facet of pop culture: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”
From movies and television, we know “being read our rights” is an important part of the criminal justice process. But many Americans are either uninformed or misinformed as to what exactly their Miranda rights entail, and when they must be read out loud by an officer of the law.
The Truth about Your Miranda Rights
The Miranda Warning is a rote description of the rights of individuals in police custody who are suspects in a criminal investigation, commonly known as “Miranda Rights.” This group of rights earned their name from the Supreme Court case from which they originated, Miranda v. Arizona.
They are as follows:
- You have the right to remain silent;
- Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law;
- You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during the interrogation;
- If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you;
- You can invoke your right to be silent before or during an interrogation, and if you do so, the interrogation must stop.
- You can invoke your right to have an attorney present, and until your attorney is present, the interrogation must stop.
There may be slight variations on the actual wording of what a law enforcement officer says. One of the most common is the addition of “do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?” or some similar phrase.
Other variations might occur in the wording of certain phrases—many states have a different standard for their officers to follow. What does not change, however, are the actual rights protected under Miranda.
When Miranda Warnings Apply
Pop culture might give the impression that a police officer is legally required to read a Miranda Warning immediately after informing an individual they are under arrest—and if they fail to do so, the arrest is null and void.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Two conditions must be met before police are required to issue the Miranda Warning. Firstly, the suspect must be under police custody. Second, the suspect must be under interrogation.
If both of the conditions are not met, the police do not have to “read you your rights.” This also means the police can use anything you say before the warning against you in a court of law.
In general, “police custody” refers to when the police deprive you of your freedom of action in any way. In a practical sense, this usually refers to being arrested. It does not, however, refer to traffic stops or an officer approaching you to ask a question.
Again, the police are only required to read your Miranda rights to you if you are in custody and under interrogation. A request for your ID is usually not considered interrogation or custody. If a police officer asks for your ID, in general you are required to provide it. Beyond this, it’s best to keep silent as much as possible.
An interrogation begins when a police officer begins to ask a suspect questions that may implicate that individual in a crime. This is done to preserve the integrity of any questions obtained during an interrogation.
The nature of the law surrounding how interrogations and Miranda rights work together was recently modified by the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that police officers can initiate a second round of questioning after a subject has invoked his right to remain silent two weeks after the initial investigation. According to the ruling, a second Miranda Warning does not need to be read, as the first one is still in effect.
What If I’m Not Read My Rights?
If for some reason the police have failed to read you the Miranda Warning under both the above mentioned conditions, it does not mean your case is now invalid. What it does mean is that any information obtained through their questioning is inadmissible in a court of law. It also means that any evidence they uncover through questioning is also inadmissible.
For example, if you confessed to a burglary and the location of stolen goods, both your confession and the stolen property would be inadmissible as evidence in court unless the police could prove that they would have found this evidence without your testimony.
If you have been arrested, don’t play around with your future – seek the counsel of an experienced criminal lawyer as soon as possible so that you can have the best chance at obtaining a favorable outcome.