I have found that many people do not understand the rules related to Miranda Warnings. In order to help people better understand their rights, in this blog I review the basics about Miranda Rights.
- Do the police have to read me my rights if I am arrested?
No. The police have no obligation to read you Miranda Rights just because they have arrested you. Further, a failure to read you Miranda Warnings does not make the arrest improper.
- When must Miranda Rights be read?
The police are only required to read Miranda Rights to you if both of the following are true:
- You have been placed under arrest or are in custody, ~and~
- The police intend to question you and want to be able to use your responses later in court.
If you are not going to be questioned, or the police do not want to use your responses in court, no Miranda Warnings are required.
What are Miranda Rights?
The traditional rights are 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 and to have one present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”
These Miranda Rights stem from the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney as provided in 5th Amendment.
- If I am not read my rights, does that mean I can say whatever I want?
No, absolutely not. Even if you are not read your rights, anything you voluntarily say can be used in court. If you are arrested and start to “explain things” or make statements such as “I’m sorry,” what you say can be used against you later in court. Miranda Rights are only required should the officer wish to question you and you have been placed under arrest.
- Do Miranda Warnings have to be read word for word?
No. The warnings are legally sufficient as long as the general rights are covered (right to remain silent and right to have an attorney).
- What about things I say before I’ve been Mirandized?
Anything you say to law enforcement prior to your arrest can be used in court. What you say during a consensual encounter (e.g., phone conversation, discussion at the station or your home) is admissible in court. Likewise personnel who are not specifically police officers (e.g., security guards and probation officers) are not required to advise people of their Miranda Rights. As stated above, the only time the Miranda Warning must be read is when you’ve been taken into custody by a police officer and they want to interrogate you.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: If law enforcement has read you the Miranda Warning, the only four words you should say are “I want a lawyer.” After you say that you should remain silent and call an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.