Whether you are a U.S. citizen or an immigrant in the United States, you have certain protections under what is called your Miranda rights. The Miranda warning or Miranda rights is a warning that is given by the police to criminal suspects that are in police custody, or that are undergoing an interrogation before they are actually interrogated. The Miranda rights ensure that whatever the suspect says is admissible in court, and whatever the suspect says after they are read their Miranda rights can be used against them in criminal proceedings.
Law enforcement across the nation is required to give the Miranda warning; it is a preventative measure that law enforcement is required to conduct in order to protect the suspect in custody who is subject to questioning in a criminal case.
In the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision, the court held that any admission or any incriminating statements made by a suspect that was not informed of their Miranda rights was a violation of the suspect's Fifth and Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Therefore, if law enforcement fails to offer the Miranda warning to a criminal suspect and they interrogate that person while they are in police custody, they cannot use the person's statements to incriminate them at a criminal trial.
Although the Supreme Court did not specify the exact wording to be used when the suspect is informed of their Miranda rights, the court did set guidelines that were to be followed. The ruling says that anyone in custody must be clearly informed that they have the right to remain silent before interrogation, and that anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law. They must be clearly informed that they have a right to an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning. Additionally, if the suspect is poor and cannot afford an attorney, then an attorney will be appointed to them at no cost. Although each U.S. jurisdiction has its own regulations regarding the exact language must be used in an interrogation situation, the warning typically says the following:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything that you say can be used against you in court.
- If you can't afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you if you want one.
- If you decide to answer questions without an attorney present, you can stop at any time and stop answering until after you hire an attorney.
Once your Miranda rights have been read, the law enforcement officer will ask you if you understand your rights as they have been explained, and you will be asked if you are willing to answer questions without an attorney being present. In some jurisdictions, the suspect must actually answer with a clear "yes" in order for questioning to proceed forward, and sometimes other jurisdictions require that a law enforcement officer ensures that the person understands after each sentence in the warning itself.
The Miranda warning applies strictly to "testimonial" evidence as it is explained under the Fifth Amendment. Therefore, someone can still be required to give their DNA samples, hair samples, handwriting samples, fingerprints and dental impressions. Physical evidence that is non-testimonial is not protected under the Miranda rule. If the prosecution cannot prove that the suspect was advised of his or her Miranda rights, and if they cannot prove that the suspect voluntarily waived their Miranda rights, then the defense may be able to challenge the admissibility of the suspect's statement.
If you or someone you love was recently arrested for a criminal offense, I urge you to contact me at my firm to schedule a confidential consultation. One of the potential flaws in a case that I search for are any violations of my client's Miranda rights, as well as any violations of their search and seizure rights. Sometimes the smallest detail or error made my law enforcement personnel can set my client free, and for this reason I focus on unearthing any holes in a case and use it to my client's advantage.