You’ve heard it on every cop show or movie – “you have the right to remain silent” and so on. These are referred to as Miranda Rights and Hollywood has created a potentially insurmountable misunderstanding around how these work.
We hear from clients all the time who say the police never read them their rights so they MUST be set free, right? We’re here to tell you that no, that’s not accurate – at all. In fact, you could be arrested, processed, and placed in a cell without your Miranda Rights ever being read to you. It’s important to understand when and how these are actually necessary. Knowing your rights is an imperative part of defending your rights.
What Are Your Miranda Rights?
Before we go any further, can you recite the Miranda Rights without looking? What Hollywood gets right is that police actually do reference the same “script” whenever they’re necessary. The script goes:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”
Officials may change a word or two in there but the same information must be clearly communicated each time. If someone does not speak English then the Miranda Rights must be read to them through an interpreter, as well.
When Are They Required?
Members of law enforcement are only required to read these when a suspect is in custody and being questioned. General questioning for witnesses or persons of interest won’t invoke your Miranda Rights as you’re not in custody at that time. This means if the police show up at your door for questioning, you need to know your rights before they ever get there.
In some cases, the police have all the evidence and information they need to make an arrest without going any further. So, if officers confront you and inform you you’re being arrested without ever asking you questions then they may never read you your rights. At that point, it’s their discretion as to whether or not they read your Miranda Rights.
What If They Violate My Miranda Rights?
Even though the standards surrounding Miranda Rights are well known, officers still occasionally violate them and fail to read the rights before questioning someone in custody. Generally, any incriminating evidence obtained by interrogation before the reading of Miranda Rights will be inadmissible in court. And no, the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Miranda Rights does not mean police don’t have to read them – it just means the police can’t face civil liability for failing to do so.
Ultimately, there’s no guarantee you can get evidence dismissed even if police fail to read you your rights. If there’s a genuine concern for public safety that could be increased by leaving this information out then the court may consider otherwise. That’s why it’s imperative to request an attorney before you ever say a word to officers. It may be tempting to be friendly and cooperative but this runs the risk of incriminating yourself more than setting you free. Instead, contact Blankenship Law and we’ll make sure you don’t pay for your mistakes for the rest of your life.