You know it by heart, whether you’ve ever been arrested or not. It’s recited on every episode of every police show. You have the right to remain silent. But what’s it all about? Where did it come from and are these rights really that important for me to know?
Why They’re Called Miranda Rights
In 1966, the Supreme Court heard the case of Miranda v. Arizona and ruled that every person who is arrested must be read their rights as given to them in the Fifth Amendment before being questioned. The Miranda case was actually the result of 4 cases that were appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. In these cases people were arrested and after being questioned and incriminating themselves, they were eventually convicted. All 4 defendants claimed that they didn’t know they could refuse to talk to the police and all but one had their case overturned by the Supreme Court to be retried without the confessions.
Why It’s Important to Know Them
Your Miranda Rights are not the right to remain silent per se, but rather the requirement for the arresting officer to remind you that you have these basic rights covered in the Fifth Amendment. Your Miranda Rights say, “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?”
Let’s break them down.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” You don’t have to say a word to the police and they can’t tell you otherwise. Even if you’re innocent, do not say anything until you speak to an attorney because if you do talk, they can use it against you. Police officers and detectives are highly trained in questioning suspects to get the information they’re looking for. This is not to say they’re trying to get innocent people to confess, but you’ve been arrested and may not be thinking clearly. It’s better to let a lawyer do the talking.
“You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” They must let you contact a lawyer. Lawyers can be expensive and not everyone can afford one, so the court provides public defenders to represent defendants who cannot afford their own. There are requirements to show that you do not have the means to pay for an attorney before one will be appointed.
“Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” The officer must get a clear response from you to ensure that you heard them and are aware of your rights.
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