Crime dramas and police on the big screen have popularized a specific notion regarding a person's rights during an arrest. A common trope in these fictional presentations of law enforcement is that someone being questioned by cops suddenly becomes absolved of all guilt-inducing and self-incriminating utterances once they realize that the cops have not read them their Miranda rights. The truth of the matter is that police always have tricks up their sleeve to make sure they can make an arrest if they want to.
The phrase "Miranda Rights" comes from a case in 1966, Miranda v. Arizona. What took place in the Miranda case was, in essence, a long and drawn out interrogation, during which Miranda was never advised of his right to a lawyer, and was likely coerced into a confession of committing the crimes he was arrested for. After an appeal, the case resulted in the ruling that law enforcement officials must make a person aware of their rights to both remain silent and also to have an attorney present.
What Does This Mean For Me?
Miranda v. Arizona resulted in the ruling that when cops are making an arrest or beginning an interrogation, they must advise you of your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. Typically, the Miranda Rights or Miranda Warning will read as follows:
"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."
As soon as you hear this, you should stop talking and request the presence of an attorney. If your interaction with a police officer is ever at this point, "anything you say can and will be used against you" is NOT a joke. From this point forward you are under arrest and if you reveal anything even slightly incriminating, the cops will stretch it as far as they possibly can once it comes up in court.
What If I Was NOT Read My Miranda Rights?
A common tactic cops will use during stops is loaded questioning. They will not read you your Miranda rights, but will ask you manipulative questions to try to get you to say something that can give them probable cause to make an arrest. On top of this, sometimes those statements you made before your rights were read to you may even come up against you in court. The best thing you can do when confronted by an officer is to politely decline to answer any questions, and to see whether you are under arrest or if you are free to go.
If you are charged with a crime based on statements said before you were read your Miranda Rights, the first thing you will want to do is get in touch with a criminal defense attorney. There are many rules that pertain to what evidence can be used in court, and a criminal defense attorney will be able to try to suppress certain evidence in court.
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