What Are Miranda Rights and What Happens When You Invoke Them?

What Are Miranda Rights and What Happens When You Invoke Them?

“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 appointed for you.”

You may have heard some version of this warning in TV and movies. It’s called the Miranda warning. You may have also heard it called reading someone their Miranda rights. This warning is meant to inform you of your rights when police take you into custody.

Under the Fifth Amendment, you have the right to not incriminate yourself. This is also known as the right to remain silent. You also have the right to have an attorney represent you under the Sixth Amendment.

The name comes from the 1966 case Miranda v. Arizona. The ruling in that case set a precedent that the police must inform people of their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights before taking them into custody or interrogation.
The police reading of these rights to someone in custody is commonly known as a Miranda warning. People also refer to this as Mirandizing.

What is the Miranda warning?

There is no official Miranda warning. But the Supreme Court ruled that these warnings must inform a person of:

  • Their right to remain silent.
  • That anything they say can be used against them in court.
  • The right to speak to an attorney.
  • Their right to have an attorney present during questioning.
  • The right to a publicly funded attorney if they cannot afford one.

Do the police always have to read you the Miranda warning?

Police only have to read you a Miranda warning if they are taking you into custody. You are considered “in custody” when you get arrested. But it can also apply to other situations. If it isn’t clear whether you were actually in custody, a court will decide. To do so, they will consider a few factors.

  • Informed. Did officers tell you that you didn’t have to answer their questions? Did they inform you were not under arrest?
  • Freedom of movement. Were you free to move away from the officer’s presence?
  • Consent. Did you volunteer information? Did officers demand information from you?
  • Accusatory. Did officers give you evidence of your guilt?
  • Oppressive. Did an officer control or dominate the situation?

How do you invoke your Miranda rights?

Anything you say after the Miranda warning can be used against you unless you clearly invoke your rights in a way that you can easily prove. After they Mirandize you, police will try to interrogate you. The Supreme Court has ruled that statements like “I think I need a lawyer” aren’t enough. You need to be clear and firm. This can be as simple as saying “I invoke my right to remain silent.” You can also state that you want to exercise your right to an attorney. State it multiple times if you have to.

Officers must read you your Miranda rights when they take you into custody.
Image courtesy of choochart choochaikupt via iStockphoto.com.

What happens after you invoke your Miranda rights?

Once you invoke your right to silence or your right to an attorney, police should stop questioning you immediately. If they continue to interrogate you, this is a violation of your rights. Anything you say after that point cannot be used in court. But proving that you clearly invoked that right can be hard. If you choose to invoke these rights, follow through. Do not volunteer to speak with any officials anymore until you have a lawyer present.

The Takeaway:

Your Miranda rights ensure your right to be informed of your Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights when you are taken into custody. They ensure your right to remain silent and to an attorney. Police must read you a Miranda warning when they take you into custody. This could mean arresting you. But it can also mean other situations. If there is confusion about what is and isn’t custody, a court will decide based on a few different factors.

You can invoke your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney by stating clearly that you are doing so. Once you invoke these rights, police must stop questioning you. If they do not, anything you say after that point cannot be used against you in court.

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