Most Americans are familiar with the Miranda warnings, often because we hear it repeated in television crime dramas and cop movies. It’s a staple of the American justice system and rightly so. Also known as the Miranda rights, this warning is often recited by police upon issuing an arrest. However, these rights are only triggered during a custody interrogation. In other words, police officers are required to advise you of these rights if you are in custody and they are questioning you about the offense in an effort to elicit responses that may be used against your interest.
It is a federally mandated requirement, adopted by the State, that serves two purposes; it protects a citizen who is arrested and in custody from unknowingly incriminating him/herself, and it ensures that any evidence or testimony obtained during the custodial interrogation is not illegally or unconstitutionally obtained
While the exact wording can vary in different jurisdictions, the primary elements are as follows:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to speak with an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one can be appointed for you.
- If you decide to answer any 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 these rights as I have read them to you?
This warning is issued to you because if you’re being arrested and questioned while in custody, it’s safe to assume you are suspected of a crime. In times of intense adrenaline and high emotions, you could say things that can later be used as evidence against you in trial. It is always advised to exercise your constitutional right to remain silent and say nothing to law enforcement officers outside the presence of an attorney, as voluntary statements made in the absence of a custodial interrogation can be admissible and used against you in court. You should always ask to consult with a lawyer before speaking to police so that you protect your rights and interests. Invoking your rights does not mean that you are being uncooperative with law enforcement officers. Invoking your legal rights also does not mean that you are obstructing official business or obstructing justice.