What Are Miranda Rights?
A "Miranda warning," also called "Miranda rights," is the warning police officers must give to someone detained on constitutional requirements, which came from the infamous Supreme Court decision, Miranda v. Arizona.
In Miranda, the Court ruled a defendant cannot be questioned by police in a “custodial interrogation” until informed they have the right to remain silent, the right to consult with an attorney, have the attorney present during questioning, and have an attorney appointed if they are unable to afford one.
These warnings come from the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel.
Suppose you did not receive a Miranda warning or waive Miranda rights. In that case, statements made might be inadmissible under the exclusionary rule, which prevents the use of evidence gathered in violation of the United States Constitution at trial.
Notably, the Court ruled that before any questioning, the person must be warned that they have the right to remain silent and that any statement they make may be used as evidence against him. Defendants can waive these rights provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently.
Suppose federal law enforcement agents contact you as part of an investigation. In that case, you should remain silent and contact a federal criminal defense lawyer to provide professional guidance.
Suppose you might have given incriminating statements to federal agents. There might be a chance of excluding those statements from being used against you for violating your Miranda rights, a common legal ground for suppressing statements.
Miranda Rights – Quick Facts
There are some essential facts you should know about Miranda rights and violations, such as the following:
- Miranda rights guard against self-incrimination while interrogating suspects in settings controlled by federal law enforcement officers.
- Statements during a “custodial interrogation” cannot be used against you unless you were informed of your Miranda rights, but you can waive them.
- A "Miranda warning" is a constitutional requirement for someone detained or arrested and then questioned by law enforcement.
- The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution gives you the right not to testify against yourself or say anything that would incriminate you.
- A statement of your rights must be explained to you by federal law enforcement before they attempt to interrogate you.
- These rights are not just guaranteed at the federal level, such as the FBI; they also apply to your local police departments.
- Law enforcement is not required to read the Miranda warning when you are arrested, but rather only before questioning you after arrest.
Miranda Warnings - Explained
The Miranda warning summarizes your Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights that law enforcement must read after arresting and questioning you about an alleged crime.
As noted, this requirement came forth based on the 1966 Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona, where the court ruled law enforcement officers must inform suspects of their right to remain silent and to an attorney before any custodial interrogation can occur.
This landmark case involved the constitutional rights violation of Ernesto Miranda during his arrest and trial for armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape. The Miranda warnings are typically some versions below:
- “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. You have the right to an attorney. One will be provided for you if you cannot afford an attorney. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? Do you wish to speak to me with these rights in mind?”
How Are Your Miranda Rights Violated?
Your Miranda rights may be violated by law enforcement in other ways besides just not reading them, such as the following:
- Refusal to allow an attorney present before questioning. Suppose the police read your Miranda warnings, then try to ask you without a lawyer and refuse to allow a lawyer in the room, which is a clear violation.
- Attempt to coerce you to make self-incriminating statements. Likewise, if the police do read your rights and then use manipulative tactics to get you to incriminate yourself, such as forcing a confession, it's also a violation.
As noted, if federal law enforcement agents and police violate your rights in the ways mentioned above, not only are your statements inadmissible in court, but your case might be dismissed due to the breach of your rights under federal law.
When Does the Law Require the Miranda Warning?
As noted, many people believe that police must read your rights at the time of your arrest. While this often occurs, they are not required.
The Miranda warnings must only be read if the police intend to interrogate you. Thus, they're not legally obligated to explain your Miranda rights if they don't question you. Further, they can ask you anything if you are not under arrest.
Once they read the Miranda warning, police will typically ask if you clearly understand the rights they just explained. Next, they will tell you that since you have the legal right to remain silent and not answer any questions, do you still want to talk to us?
This is the “Miranda waiver.” Suppose you give consent to speak to the police. In that case, you have just waived your Miranda rights and invoked the right to remain silent. Sometimes, they will ask you to sign a written waiver.
What If You Are Questioned Without a Miranda Warnings?
Suppose federal law enforcement agents question you without reading the Miranda warning. In that case, any statements cannot be used as evidence against you in court.
You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer any questions, even if federal agents don't tell you. If they attempt to use unlawfully gained information, your defense lawyer can file a motion to suppress evidence based on a Miranda violation.
Many ask if they can still be convicted of a crime if their Miranda rights were not read to them. The simple answer is yes. Failure to read Miranda does not invalidate the arrest or criminal charges against you.
Instead, it nullifies any statements you give to law enforcement during questioning. Simply put, your answers can't be used to prove your guilt, but the prosecutor might have other evidence to prove guilt.
However, suppose the only evidence in the case resulted from an unlawful interrogation. In that case, that evidence would be inadmissible, and the judge could dismiss your case.
In other words, a Miranda violation is not necessarily sufficient legal grounds for dismissing the criminal charges against you. Still, information obtained, including a confession, can't be used against you.
Contact our experienced federal criminal defense lawyers for a free case evaluation if you face federal charges. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.