Most people who have watched a television depicting the police arresting
someone has heard them recite what is known as a “Miranda warning.” For the most part,
Miranda warnings in real-life law enforcement practice cover approximately the
same thing as their television counterparts:
You have the
right to remain silent—everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law
You have the
right to speak with an attorney and have them present while you are questioned.
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you
before any questioning if you wish.
You can decide at any time to exercise these rights and not answer any
questions or make any statements.
Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you?
With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak with us now?
This aspect of police procedure stems from the seminal U.S. Supreme Court case,
Miranda v. Arizona, where the court held that custodial interrogations conducted by law enforcement
were inadmissible where the defendant was unaware of their constitutional rights.
There is a misconception that the failure to read an arrestee their
Miranda rights is an illegal arrest. This is not true, as the validity of an arrest
depends on whether the arresting authority had probable cause, a warrant,
or an emergency negating the need for a warrant under the Fourth Amendment.
Miranda warnings are only concerned with the Fifth Amendment protection against
compelled self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to the assistance
of counsel throughout
criminal proceedings. These rights are vital during the initial stages of investigating a crime,
where police interrogate someone they suspect is guilty of a crime.
Miranda warnings were not recited to the defendant, the arrest might still be valid.
However, any statements that the police gather after the arrest might
be inadmissible at trial in the absence of
The Fifth Amendment Right to Remain Silent
Under the Fith Amendment to the United States Constitution, no one “…shall
be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor
be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
The first part of the
Miranda warnings is designed to preserve a person’s right not to be forced
to incriminate themselves by talking with the police by notifying them
of their right to refuse to speak with the police. Although the Fifth
Amendment mentions “self-incrimination,” a person has the
broad right to refuse to talk with the police about anything, because
the incriminating nature of what they say may not be immediately apparent.
The right against self-incrimination stemmed from a right recognized in
England under the Magna Carta. Historically, people were arrested and
forced to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. The U.S. Supreme
Court held that the Fifth Amendment was included to prevent coerced confessions
after being detained by the police. However, an individual’s right
against self-incrimination is limited to what are known as “custodial
interrogations” where a person’s freedom has been restricted
by law enforcement through force or a display of overwhelming authority.
For example, a person who initiates a casual conversation with a lone police
officer but ends up divulging the details of a heist they committed has
not been subjected to a custodial interrogation, because they volunteered
the incriminating information without provocation.
The Sixth Amendment Right to an Attorney
According to the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a criminal
defendant has the right “to have the Assistance of Counsel for his
defence.” This right is limited to criminal proceedings and is designed
to help ensure that the police are not deploying improper interrogation
methods that infringe on a person’s constitutional rights. When
a person expresses their intention to exercise their right to assistance
of counsel under the Sixth Amendment, police are advised to end interrogation attempts.
Waiving Your Miranda Rights
In general, a person may waive their
Miranda rights so long as the waiver is knowing and voluntary. The purpose of reciting
Miranda warnings to a defendant is so that they understand and know their constitutional
rights in situations where they are taken into custody by the police.
The police may not unduly influence or coerce a suspect into waiving their rights.
Just as a person is free to exercise their constitutional rights at any
time during a police interrogation, the person is free to waive those
rights at any time. For example, a person who tells the police that they
want a lawyer present for questioning, only to voluntarily start talking
after ten minutes, has waived their right to remain silent and have counsel
present for questioning.
Consult Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich
If the police are confronting you with criminal charges, you should exercise
your Sixth Amendment rights and seek the assistance of counsel. At Hanson,
Gorian, Bradford & Hanich,
our legal team is committed to protecting your legal rights and advocating for your interests.
Contact us at (951) 687-6003 to
schedule an initial case evaluation with one of our attorneys exploring your legal options today.