You Have the Right to Remain Silent: Understanding the Miranda Warning

It was the Supreme Court ruling in Miranda v. Arizona in 1966 that forever changed the way that police officers read suspects their rights before taking them into custody for questioning. It’s something you have likely heard on television crime dramas, but do you fully understand what it means? Read on to find out.

The standard Miranda warning is 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 speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.”

However, a more detailed Miranda warning asks the suspects if they understand after each point, for example:

  • “You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Do you understand?”
  • “Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law. Do you understand?”
  • “You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. Do you understand?”
  • “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. Do you understand?”
  • “If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Do you understand?”
  • “Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?”

A person can be arrested, put in handcuffs, and even searched without being given the Miranda warning. It is when police decide they wish to question the suspect that they are required by law to read that person their Miranda rights. Doing so is supposed to ensure that the person doesn’t incriminate themselves when being interrogated.

If a person says anything to the police before having the Miranda warning told to them, even if they confess to the crime, this cannot be used against them in court unless the police can prove that at the time the confession was made they had no intention of interrogating that person.

The Miranda Warning – A Breakdown

“You have the right to remain silent.” This means a person does not have to answer police when being questioned. Most attorneys will recommend that any person being questioned should use their right to remain silent until they arrive.

“Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law.” This means if a person does choose to talk, anything they say is likely to be used against them when they go to court.

“You have the right to an attorney.” This is an integral part of the Miranda warning as a person has a right to request an attorney if police officers are questioning them. However, if you want an attorney present, you must be clear about this. Saying something vague can be misinterpreted, so tell the police clearly that you would like to request an attorney to be present and will not answer any questions until that happens. If you do this, all questioning should cease until your attorney arrives, and it is best not to speak again until they do.

“If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” People who cannot afford their attorney will be provided with one at government expense. You may have to wait patiently for some time before an attorney arrives, and it is essential to continue to remain silent until they do. Starting even a casual conversation is not advisable, as this could be interpreted that you are revoking your request.

Exceptions to the Miranda Rule

The right to remain silent does not apply when police ask for legally required information to identify you such as name, address, age, date of birth, and employment. You must answer these questions honestly. If the police officers believe that there may be a risk to public safety, a suspect can be continually questioned by police, even if they have invoked their right to remain silent. If a suspect talks to a jailhouse snitch, what they say can be used against them in court, regardless of whether or not they have been Mirandized.

Understanding what the Miranda warning means and how to interpret it is advantageous, and being confident in using your rights means you are less likely to incriminate yourself accidentally. If you have been charged with a crime, the professional lawyers at the Greg McCollum Complete Legal Defense Team can provide an aggressive defense and make sure you get the justice you deserve. Call us at (843) 627-4025 for a confidential consultation today!