Miranda Warning and Your Rights

Reading Suspects Their Rights and FAQ About the Miranda Warning

Police officer searching man
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Since the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Miranda v. Arizona in 1966, it has become the practice of police investigators to read suspects their rights -- or give them the Miranda warning -- before questioning them while in custody.

Many times, police give the Miranda warning -- warning suspects they have the right to remain silent -- as soon as they are placed under arrest, to make sure the warning is not overlooked later by detectives or investigators.

The Standard Miranda Warning:

"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 speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense."

Sometimes suspects are given a more detailed Miranda warning, designed to cover all contingencies that a suspect might encounter while in police custody. Suspects may be asked to sign a statement acknowledging they understand the following:

Detailed Miranda Warning:

You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Do you understand?

Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law. Do you understand?

You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. Do you understand?

If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. Do you understand?

If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Do you understand?

Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?

What it All Means - FAQ About the Miranda Warning:

When should the police read you your Miranda rights?

You can be handcuffed, searched and arrested without being Mirandized. The only time the police are required to read you your rights is when they decide to interrogate you. The law is designed to protect people from self-incrimination under interrogation. It is not meant to establish that you are under arrest.

It also means that any statement that you make including a confession, before being Mirandized, can be used against you in court, if the police can prove that they were not intending on interrogating you at the time that you made the statements.

Example: Casey Anthony Murder Case

Casey Anthony was charged with first-degree murder of her daughter. During her trial, her attorney tried to get statements that she made to family members, friends, and the police, suppressed because she had not been read her Miranda rights before making the statements. The judge denied the motion to suppress the evidence, stating that at the time of the statements, Anthony was not a suspect. 

"You have the right to remain silent."

Take this sentence at face value. It means that you can remain silent when police question you. It is your right, and if you ask any good attorney, they will recommend that you use it- and remain silent. However, you are required to state honestly, your name, address, and whatever other information is required by state law.

"Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law."

This goes back to the first line of the Miranda warning and why you want to use it. This line explains that if you do start talking, anything you say will (not can) likely be used against you when it is time to go to court.

"You have the right to an attorney."

If you are being questioned by the police, or even before questioning, you have the right to request an attorney be present before you make any statements. But you must clearly say the words, that you want an attorney and that you will remain silent until you get one. Saying, "I think I need an attorney," or "I heard I should get an attorney," is not clearing defining your position.

Once you state that you want an attorney present, all questioning has to stop until your attorney arrives. Also, once you clearly state that you want an attorney, stop talking. Do not discuss the situation, or even participate in idle chit-chat, otherwise, it could be interpreted as you have willingly revoked (cancelled) your request to have an attorney present. It is like opening the proverbial can of worms.

"If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you."

If you cannot afford an attorney, an attorney will be appointed to you. If you have requested an attorney, it is also important to be patient. It may take some time to get an attorney for you, but one will come.

What if you wave your right to have an attorney present?

It is your right to wave the right to have an attorney present during police questioning. It is also your right to change your mind. All that is required is that at any point, before, during or after an interrogation, that you state clearly that you want an attorney and will not answer questions until one is present. At whatever point that you say it, questioning should stop until your attorney arrives. However, anything that you said before the request can be used against you in court.

Exceptions to the Miranda Rule

There are three situations when there may be exceptions to the ruling:

  1. When the police ask you to provide information such as your name, address, age, date of birth, and employment, you are required to answer those types of questions honestly.
  2. When it is considered a matter of public safety or when the public could face imminent danger, a suspect may still be questioned by police, even when they have invoked their right to remain silent. 
  3. If a suspect talks to a jailhouse snitch, their statements can be used against them in a court of law, even if they have not yet been Mirandized.

See Also: History of Miranda Rights