Your Miranda rights refer to a series of protections you are given by law when being interrogated as a suspect in a crime. The purpose of the Miranda rights is to protect suspected criminals — who, until proven guilty, are presumed innocent in the eyes of the United States justice system — from being forced to make statements that may incriminate themselves. Before a law enforcement officer can interrogate you as a suspect, they must inform you of your Miranda rights.
The process of informing a suspect of their Miranda rights is known as “Mirandizing” the suspect. If a law enforcement officer fails to Mirandize a person, any evidence they obtain from a subsequent interrogation may be deemed inadmissible in court. If you are facing charges for a crime and believe you were not afforded your Miranda rights, a lawyer from McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. can help. Call 610-680-7842 for a free consultation.
Why Suspected Criminals Are Given Miranda Rights
The term “Miranda rights” dates back to a 1966 Supreme Court decision, Miranda vs. Arizona. In this case, the Court ruled that suspected criminals must be informed of several rights, including the right to remain silent (i.e., the right not to make self-incriminating statements) and the right to an attorney.
The “Miranda” in the case was a Phoenix man charged with rape and several other felonies. Under aggressive interrogation by law enforcement, Miranda, who had a history of mental illness and less than a high school education, confessed to the crimes, and the police recorded his statements. Based solely on this evidence, the state secured a conviction, and Miranda was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
He and his lawyer appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned it in a 5-4 decision, citing the police officers’ failure to uphold the suspect’s fifth amendment rights, and giving rise to the term “Miranda rights.”
What Are Your Miranda Rights
Your Miranda rights are encapsulated in something called the “Miranda warning.” The law requires any law enforcement officer to read you this warning before interrogating you about your potential involvement in a crime. They must give you this warning verbatim:
“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 an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
After being provided this warning, you may refuse to answer any question without an attorney present — and it is in your best interest to take advantage of this right. Once you state that you want an attorney and will not answer questions without one, the interrogation must end.
When Your Miranda Rights Apply
The police are not required to read you your Miranda rights just because they are placing you under arrest. If they do not plan to interrogate you at the time of arrest, they do not have to Mirandize you. However, if they ask you any questions about the alleged crime before informing you of your Miranda rights, your attorney can have any subsequent evidence they gained invalidated.
Issues of Public Safety
In situations where public safety is an issue, a police officer may ask a suspect certain questions that may lead to self-incriminating answers without Mirandizing the person first. As you might imagine, a lot of gray areas exists here, which is why it is critical to have an aggressive criminal defense attorney if you believe you incriminated yourself under interrogation by a law enforcement officer.
It is important to remember that your Miranda rights — as well as the Fifth Amendment in general — only applies to situations where you may incriminate yourself by answering a question. The Fifth Amendment does not give you the right to remain silent in every situation or to refuse to answer any question.
A police officer can still require you to answer non-incriminating questions, such as those involving your name, age, address, and occupation. Also, if you are being interviewed as a witness in a crime and are not a suspect yourself, you cannot invoke your Fifth Amendment rights to avoid implicating another person (such as a friend or relative) in a crime.
Lastly, if you provide incriminating information after being read your Miranda rights, the state can enter your statements as evidence and use them against you.
Call 610-680-7842 Today for a Free Criminal Defense Consultation with McKenzie Law Firm, P.C.
Attorney David McKenzie and his team at McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. can help you beat a criminal charge in Pennsylvania. We handle federal crimes, theft crimes, traffic crimes, and more. We offer a free consultation and case evaluation. To speak with a member of our team, call us at 610-680-7842.