What are known as Miranda rights come from a historic 1966 United States Supreme Court case called Miranda v. Arizona. The Supreme Court held that if the police want to question (interrogate) you in police custody, they must apprise you of your constitutional protections. These include protections against making self-incriminating statements and your right to legal counsel.
The following is an overview of your Fifth Amendment Miranda rights. This article explains:
- What Miranda rights are
- When Miranda rights are required
- Fifth Amendment rights
- What happens if law enforcement fails to read you your Miranda rights
- When Miranda warnings are not required
- Invoking your Miranda rights
- Waiving your Miranda rights
What Are Your Miranda Rights?
Miranda rights (also known as Miranda warnings) outline the following 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 appointed for you.
Miranda rights allow you to choose not to answer an officer's questions, and you may request an attorney. However, you must affirmatively invoke your rights to remain silent and to an attorney. Once you invoke your right to remain silent, police must stop questioning you.
When Are Miranda Warnings Required?
While TV shows and movies often show officers delivering Miranda rights when they arrest someone, this is not always the reality. Law enforcement officials must give you the full Miranda warning before custodial interrogation begins. This type of interrogation happens when you are in police custody, and the police start asking you questions.
Police do not always need to warn you about your rights during an arrest or while you wait in jail. You will, however, hear the warning before the interrogation starts. If you are not read your rights, the court may throw out anything said in the interrogation. A violation of Miranda rights should result in the evidence obtained being deemed inadmissible.
Note that you may need to provide identification and answer basic questions.
Fifth Amendment Miranda Rights at a Glance
The Supreme Court's decision in Miranda bolsters your rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment protects a person from being compelled to be a witness against themself (self-incrimination). It also reduces the likelihood that a criminal suspect ultimately gives a coerced confession.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees your right to legal counsel. Your Sixth Amendment right to have an attorney present, however, only attaches once police formally charge you with a crime.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees protection against unlawful searches and seizures of property. With some exceptions, such as emergencies and public safety interests, a search warrant is typically required before the police can conduct a search of your home or office.
Miranda v. Arizona Explained
In the U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, petitioner Ernesto Miranda confessed to a violent crime after two hours of police interrogation. He signed a statement in which he admitted: "With full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make may be used against me." However, the officers did not explain his legal rights to him.
The Supreme Court concluded that the interrogation was coercive and that police officers did not inform Miranda of his right to an attorney. The Supreme Court held that because Miranda did not understand his rights, he did not voluntarily waive his constitutional right when he signed the statement.
Miranda is a landmark case regarding criminal procedure in the United States. The case highlights the importance of a criminal suspect's constitutional rights and Fifth Amendment privileges.
What if the Police Fail to Advise Me of My Miranda Rights?
When police officers question a suspect in custody without first giving the Miranda warning, any statement or confession made is presumably involuntary. The court should suppress such involuntary statements and any evidence discovered due to the statement in a criminal case.
For example, suppose police arrest Dan on suspicion of a bank robbery. Law enforcement officers then bring him to the local police station. Police questioning begins, even though they have not read Dan his Miranda rights. Unaware that he has the right to remain silent, Dan confesses to committing the robbery and tells the police that he buried the money in his backyard. The police act on this information and dig up the money.
At Dan's criminal trial, his attorney challenges the confession's admissibility. His attorney argues that because police did not Mirandize Dan before questioning him, the police violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The state court judge will likely suppress the confession from the criminal case, as police did not inform Dan of his Miranda rights before he confessed. Therefore, the court will probably exclude his confession and the recovered money from the case.
When Are Miranda Rights Not Required?
Recall that the Miranda warning is only required before a custodial interrogation begins. Therefore, these rights only apply to a person who is both:
- In police custody
- Going to be questioned or interrogated about an alleged crime
Police custody begins when police bring a suspect to jail or prison after being arrested or convicted. In some situations, law enforcement officials may have all the evidence they need before they take a criminal suspect into custody.
For example, law enforcement pulls Tom over for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). A police officer administers a field sobriety test and a blood alcohol concentration test to Tom. The officer can perform these tests without Mirandizing Tom, as he is not yet in police custody. Therefore, if Tom makes any statements before or during these tests, such statements will most likely be admissible against him in court.
Invoking Your Miranda Rights
A suspect must clearly invoke their right to remain silent and their right to an attorney. A suspect who stays silent and does not invoke their right is legally presumed to have waived their right to remain silent. Somewhat counterintuitively, a suspect who wishes to invoke their right to remain silent should speak up.
To invoke the right to remain silent, the suspect could tell the interrogating officer the following:
- "I am invoking my right to remain silent."
- "I wish to remain silent."
To invoke their right to an attorney, the suspect could state:
- "I'm invoking my right to an attorney."
- "I want to speak with my attorney before I answer any questions."
There is no specific phrase required to invoke one's rights. The Supreme Court concluded that a sufficient invocation is one that a reasonable police officer would understand, given the circumstances.
The "reasonable police officer," like the "reasonable person" standard often used in law, is a legal fiction. However, the standard allows judges and juries to compare an officer's or person's conduct to what they think a "reasonable" officer or person would have done in the same situation.
Waiving Your Miranda Rights
Even if a suspect invokes their Miranda rights, their subsequent behavior can constitute a waiver of their rights. A waiver is "the act of intentionally or knowingly relinquishing or abandoning a known right, claim, or privilege."
A suspect can waive their rights expressly or implicitly. Examples of expressly waiving your rights could include:
- Stating you waive your rights
- Signing a document indicating your waiver
Examples of implicitly waiving your rights could include:
- Answering law enforcement's questions after police read your rights to you
- Failing to invoke your rights and then answering law enforcement's questions
If you waive your Miranda rights, statements made after your waiver may be admissible in court.
Ask a Criminal Defense Attorney About Your Fifth Amendment Miranda Rights
If police officers have violated your Miranda rights, your case could be affected significantly. It may even lead to a dismissal of the charges against you. It is crucial to have a strong criminal defense lawyer in your corner. If you have questions about criminal law or legal advice, get started by finding an experienced criminal defense attorney near you.