What You Need to Know About Your Miranda Rights

Most people are familiar with Miranda rights, which arose out of a 1966 Supreme Court decision. Some individuals can even recite much of the language contained in the Miranda warning. But not everyone, including those who have been arrested on suspicion of a crime, fully understands what these rights mean.

Greenville criminal defense attorney Erika Baldwin takes a close look at how properly exercising your Miranda rights can avoid legal trouble.

The Language of the Miranda Warning

Miranda rights are rooted in the Supreme Court decision known as Miranda v. Arizona. Their purpose is to warn a suspect that certain statements made during custodial interrogation can later be used in court. The Miranda warning that law enforcement must read a suspect prior to questioning him or her contains the following information:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything that you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to speak with a lawyer and have your lawyer with you while you are being questioned.
  • If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you if you wish to have one.

These may seem fairly straightforward, but unfortunately, there are serious misconceptions about Miranda rights.

Common Misunderstandings About Miranda Rights

Subsequent court decisions since 1966 have added additional contours to Miranda rights. They have also created some confusion over just what these rights protect and when they apply. Here are a few facts you need to know about your Miranda rights.

Fact: A Miranda warning isn’t required for every police interaction.

Some individuals believe that they have the right to be “Mirandized” every time law enforcement initiates contact with them. This isn’t true. An individual must be in police custody and under interrogation.

A routine traffic stop usually does not meet this standard. If you are pulled over on suspicion of DUI and the police begin asking you questions, you aren’t yet under arrest. The police are merely investigating a suspected crime. However, you should refuse to answer these questions anyway to avoid incriminating yourself.

Fact: Police do not have to read you your Miranda rights before arresting you.

Law enforcement is only required to read you your rights after they arrest you and before questioning you. That means two criteria must be met: you must be in police custody and under interrogation.

Imagine a scenario in which you are handcuffed at the police station. You haven’t been Mirandized but the police also haven’t begun asking you about the crime you allegedly committed. If you blurt out a confession, it can be used against you in court. Police are only obligated to read you your rights before questioning begins.

Fact: Miranda rights violations aren’t grounds for dismissing criminal charges.

Another misconception is that if the police interrogate you without first Mirandizing you, the charges against you will be dismissed. Miranda only exists to keep certain statements out of court. So while your answers to the questions would be excluded (suppressed) in court, the state can still prosecute you. It would just need other evidence to do so.

Fact: You can stop talking at any time.

Let’s say you have been read your Miranda rights and start talking to the police. During the interrogation, you grow uneasy with the questions. You can (and should) stop the interrogation immediately and ask for an attorney. You are not obligated to submit yourself to as many questions as the police decide they want to ask.

Bottom Line: Ask to Speak With an Attorney Right Away

It is not generally recommended that you talk to the police, even after being Mirandized. While Miranda rights are certainly important protections, your best safeguard is to ask for a criminal defense lawyer. That’s where we come in. If you’ve been arrested, don’t jeopardize your rights and freedom. Give Erika Baldwin a call today to learn more.

Baldwin Law serves clients in Greenville, Pickens, Anderson, Oconee, Laurens, and the surrounding areas.

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