Anyone who has seen a copy show or legal drama knows about Miranda rights. Actors playing law enforcement will often recite the “You have the right to remain silent…” warning as they put the defendant in handcuffs. It is often used for dramatic effect in stories, but those charged have fundamental rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In 1966, the United States Supreme Court ruled that any person arrested should be warned that they have the right to remain silent and have the right to legal counsel.
Important details to remember
Of course, television shows and movies are not the same as real life, and scriptwriters may not get all their legal details right. Some crucial facts about Miranda rights include:
- A person must be read their rights after they are arrested and before they are interrogated.
- The suspect may be questioned without being read their Miranda rights if the suspect is not being held and is free to go at any time.
- Being placed in the back of a squad car or taken to a police station does not automatically qualify as an arrest, so no Miranda warning is necessary.
- Any information volunteered before the warning can still be used against the defendant in a court of law.
- Once the Miranda warning is read, defendants have the right to an attorney being present for questioning.
- Any evidence gained in violation of the Miranda warning is inadmissible in court.
In essence, the Miranda warning reminds the person to remain quiet and wait to speak with an attorney before volunteering any information that could then get used by the prosecution in court. While it is not advised, a defendant may also waive their Miranda rights.
Silence is golden
Many feel the need to cooperate with law enforcement because of respect for the job, and law enforcement will try to take advantage of this emotion. Still, individuals have a right not to incriminate themselves. They also have the right to remain silent. Remaining silent does not necessarily imply guilt, but it does employ good common sense. The defendant can then wait to consult with their attorney before having anything meaningful to say to law enforcement.