Have you ever watched a television show where a police officer placed the handcuffs on a suspected criminal while saying "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can be held against you in a court of law?" If so, you have heard what is known as Miranda warnings. It's the warning provided by law enforcement that anyone accused of a crime has legal rights.
What are my Miranda Rights?
In 1966, the Supreme Court decided the case of Miranda v. Arizona. The court held that information discovered by police officers after a suspect has been placed in custody can only be used as evidence if they have been made aware of their rights. This is important because anyone has the option of voluntarily giving up their rights, but only if they are aware of their rights and have the necessary free will to waive them. Someone that has been placed under arrest by police does not always know what their rights are and do not have complete free will to make decisions.
When police read the Miranda warnings, they are informing you that:
- You have the right to remain silent
- Anything that you say can be used against you in court
- You have the right to consult with a lawyer
- Your lawyer can be present when you are being questioned by police
- A lawyer will be appointed if you are unable to afford one
- You have the right to stop being questioned by police if you request it to be so
Being in custody can occur anytime that your freedoms are limited by law enforcement, whether it be on the side of the road or when you have been admitted into jail. Once you are not free to leave, you are able to invoke your right to silence.
Should law enforcement hold you in custody without reading your Miranda rights, the statements you make may not be admissible in court. Under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, you have the right to remain silent, and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits coercive questioning by police officers. When officers deny an accused criminal of their rights, their tactics for questioning are illegal, preventing that evidence from being allowed in court.