You Have The Right To Remain Silent: Understanding Your Miranda Rights

If there’s one thing you need to remember during an arrest, it’s that you have the right to remain silent. Regardless of the situation, once your rights are invoked, you do not have to say anything further. You will be given the opportunity to speak with your lawyer or have one appointed to you. Invoking your right to remain silent may be what saves you from conviction.

Miranda rights are some of the most potent laws available to protect the rights and liberties of those arrested or accused of a crime. In the moment of an arrest, fear, anxiety, and intense emotions take over, leading to sharing information that can be later used against you. These laws prevent a suspect from being coerced or forced into revealing incriminating information during police questioning or interrogations.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or is facing the justice system, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to begin preparing a strong defense.

What are Miranda rights?

Miranda rights are the rights of a detained suspect to remain silent and to have an attorney present for questioning by law enforcement. The 5th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees defendants in criminal proceedings the right against self-incrimination (meaning a defendant cannot be forced to testify against himself or herself) and the right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona held that these 5th Amendment rights apply — not just when a case is already on file — but also when a suspect of a crime is in the custody of law enforcement, even if no case is on file yet. Therefore, a detained suspect may also assert his right to remain silent and his right to an attorney — even before a case is on file. In addition, law enforcement must inform the detained suspect of the right to remain silent and the right to counsel before questioning, and if law enforcement fails to do so, the prosecution will not be allowed to use any answers the suspect provides.

If a suspect invokes his right to remain silent or his right to an attorney during an in-custody interrogation, law enforcement is required to immediately stop all questioning and terminate the interview.

Statement Of Your Miranda Rights

“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. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

Even if you’ve never witnessed an arrest, you’ve likely heard this statement on the news or in popular crime TV shows and movies. Unlike television and the movies though, law enforcement does not typically recite the Miranda rights at the moment of arrest.

Miranda rights are about “custodial interrogations,” i.e., police questioning of a suspect while in custody before a case is on file. Therefore, if the police do not intend to ask questions, they do not have to read the Miranda warning at all. A defendant cannot get his or her case dismissed because of law enforcement’s failure to read Miranda rights. The remedy for law enforcement’s failure to read Miranda rights is that the prosecution may not introduce into evidence at trial a suspect’s in-custody responses to law enforcement’s questions.

Why are they called Miranda rights?

In 1966, there was a very well known case in the U.S. Supreme Court, Miranda v. Arizona. Ernesto Miranda was the defendant.

Miranda was initially arrested after he was caught stealing a small amount of cash from a bank teller in Arizona. After his arrest, he was subjected to many grueling hours of interrogation and questioning. By the time it was all over, he had not only confessed to the bank robbery, but he had also admitted to the kidnapping and rape of a young woman. At his trial, he was found guilty of all three crimes and sentenced to jail.

Miranda’s lawyers later appealed the guilty verdict to the Supreme Court. The argument was made that the police violated Miranda’s constitutional rights. They debated that police had failed to properly inform him of his 5th amendment rights, nor did they provide him with the opportunity to invoke them. The court agreed that Miranda’s incriminating statements should have been excluded from evidence, and a new trial was ordered.

What if I have been informed of my Miranda rights and choose to cooperate with the police?

It’s important to remember that if your Miranda rights are read to you, and you choose to cooperate with the police and continue answering questions, you can change this decision at any time. You can “plead the fifth,” indicating that you wish to invoke your constitutional rights and restoring your right to remain silent. Then any questioning is halted until you can have an attorney speak on your behalf.

How do you invoke your right to remain silent?

To invoke your right to remain silent, you must make a statement. Merely remaining silent and refusing to answer questions before this may be viewed as “bad behavior” and create unnecessary friction during your arrest. All that needs to be said at any time is, “I wish to invoke my Miranda rights.” Although there are plenty of ways, this can be phrased:

  • I invoke my right to remain silent.
  • I’m invoking my right against self-incrimination.
  • I plead the fifth
  • I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate me.
  • On the advice of counsel, I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate me.
  • I wish to invoke my Miranda rights.
  • I want an attorney.
  • I want to speak to my attorney before I answer any questions.
  • I will only speak with my attorney.

At Rose Legal Services, we always advise clients that the most important word to remember is “LAWYER.” If law enforcement is trying to ask you questions, the one word you need to say is “LAWYER,” as in, “I am not going to answer your questions without a LAWYER.” That should stop the questioning.

What does it mean to have the right to remain silent?

Once your right to remain silent has been invoked, you are protected by constitutional law. You have the right to decline to answer any questions being asked; you may remain silent. You cannot be coerced into releasing incriminating statements about yourself or your case.

When do I have the right to remain silent?

This is a constitutional right for everyone in the custody of law enforcement. You always have the right to remain silent.
The only exception is for pedigree information. Law enforcement may ask for personally identifying information, your name, address, height, date of birth, etc., without Mirandizing the suspect. But this exception is limited to information necessary to complete the booking process, and it does not extend to guilt-seeking questions.

Keep in mind that these rights must be invoked. You cannot remain quiet and refuse to answer questions or speak to the police before invoking your rights.

The less information you provide to law enforcement, the more opportunity a lawyer has to build a strong defense for you. If you find yourself facing arrest, it is imperative that you invoke your rights and speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Arrested? Concerned an arrest is imminent?

If you have already been arrested or concerned, an arrest may be coming, get in touch with us. — Schedule a free consultation immediately. We will ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent and begin building your defense.

Author Bio

Scott Rose, an experienced criminal defense lawyer and founder of Rose Legal Services, has been practicing law for over 20 years. He is dedicated to representing clients facing criminal charges and providing legal representation on various cases, including DWI, misdemeanor, and felony cases.

After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law, he gained valuable experience working for a United States Senator and as a Judicial Law Clerk for the Chief Judge of a United States District Court. Throughout his legal career, W. Scott Rose has committed to providing high-quality legal representation to his clients, earning him a spot in the National Top 100 Trial Lawyers.

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