Crime-related procedural television dramas often share many similarities. Among them is a scene in virtually every episode where a suspect is placed under arrest and taken into police custody. As the officer begins to put the handcuffs on, he or she usually starts to recite a few lines, beginning with, “You have the right to remain silent.” Thanks to such depictions, most Americans are aware that these statements—called Miranda warnings—are an important part of the criminal justice process. A much smaller percentage of people, however, understand what the warnings actually mean and when they apply.
Miranda Rights vs. Miranda Warnings
There are two primary components of the Miranda warnings—the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Both of these elements have their basis in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees a criminal suspect rights regarding self-incrimination. The Sixth Amendment also guarantees the right to an attorney, but the warnings are focused on confessions and self-incrimination.
In short, the rights addressed by the Miranda warnings have been in place for more than 200 years, but the warnings themselves are the product of a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In that case, Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court determined that because the police did not remind a suspect of his rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present, the man’s subsequent confession was not admissible as evidence. From then on, Miranda warnings—a restatement of existing rights—have remained a crucial element of the arrest and interrogation processes.
The exact wording of the recitation of Miranda warnings may differ slightly among arresting officers, but it will always be something similar to, “You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be you used against you in court. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”
The Miranda warnings are not required to be given at the time of arrest necessarily, but they must be given before the suspect is questioned. If, for example, a suspect is arrested and not “read his Miranda rights,” any spontaneous or voluntary comments or excuses he makes are admissible in court, even without a lawyer present. If the officer begins questioning the suspect before reading the warnings, however, any resulting information or confession is not admissible.
Once the Miranda warnings have been given, it is then up to the suspect to exercise his or rights. Any criminal suspect placed under arrest should refuse to answer any questions until an attorney can be present. It may be difficult and could even require an extra day or two in jail, but the risks of being tricked or pressured into self-incrimination are too great.
Charged With a Crime?
If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged a crime, it is imperative to seek legal help immediately. An experienced Kane County criminal defense attorney will work to protect your rights and ensure that law enforcement and prosecutors are held to the highest standards. Call 847-488-0889 for a free consultation at The Law Offices of Brian J. Mirandola today.