Miranda Rights Explained

November 15, 2010

Everyone has heard the familiar lines in your favorite police drama: “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…” Most are probably familiar that these warnings are known as a person’s Miranda rights. But what exactly do Miranda rights do?

Miranda rights are meant to inform a person who has been arrested of their basic constitutional rights to remain silent and to speak with an attorney before answering any questions. Miranda warnings are required to be given to a person who has been placed under arrest and is being questioned. If a person who has been placed under arrest is not warned of their constitutional rights, any statements made by that person in response to police questioning may not be used against them in court.

However, if a person is merely detained, and not under arrest, Miranda warnings are not required. This means any statement made before being arrested, for example while performing field sobriety tests after being pulled over on suspicion of DUI, are not subject to the protections of Miranda. If you are placed under arrest and are never given Miranda warnings, this does not offer any protection if no statements are used against you. Further, statements are in violation of Miranda only if they are a result of police questioning. If a person volunteers information without prompting by law enforcement, failure to give Miranda warnings will not protect the admissibility of the statement in court.

Miranda warnings are given for a good reason – so listen to them and understand them! You have an absolute right to remain silent. Chances are, if you have already been arrested, you will not be able to talk your way out of it. You also have the right to speak with an attorney. These are the magic words – once you request an attorney, all questioning MUST stop. This is always a smart thing to do.

If you are being questioned by law enforcement about something you don’t want to discuss, your first question should be, “Am I free to go?” If they say yes, then leave. If they say no, then politely but firmly ask for an attorney.

If you have been arrested for a crime in which you believe statements may have been taken from you in violation of your Miranda rights, contact The Law Office of Scott R. Ball today for a free and confidential consultation.


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