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 to represent you.
Because of movies and television shows such as C.O.P.S. and other crime dramas which have become increasingly popular in our society, it is not often that you run into an adult, or even older children for that matter, that are not at least generally familiar with their Miranda rights. Like the Pledge of Allegiance, most people can recite their Miranda rights almost word for word. However, what most people are clueless about is when those rights are applicable, and even more so, when are the police required to advise you of them.
One very common question I often have asked of me by prospective clients and people seeking advice regarding criminal law is the applicability of being read their rights by police officers. Almost every week I am asked something to the effect of, “The officer never read me my rights so we can get the case dismissed, right?” Unfortunately, in most situations, the answer to such questions is almost always “No”.
While you always possess the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney (which we absolutely believe you should always use), there are only limited situations when law enforcement must inform you of these rights. Two factors must be present for police officers to be required to advise you of your rights. The first requirement is that you must be “in custody.” If you think about it, most encounters with police occur when we are not in custody (i.e. traffic stops, voluntary answering of questions, brief investigative detentions). The second requirement is that police must be conducting “interrogation” which simply stated is questioning specifically related to a crime.
If both factors are not present, law enforcement does not have to inform you of your Miranda rights and chances are they won’t. If both factors are present and police fail to advise you of your Miranda rights, this still does mean the case is automatically dismissed, merely that any statements you made during the interrogation might not be allowed to be used against you in court. While it may seem like common sense after reading this article, the lines can be exceptionally blurry when it comes to what courts consider “in custody” to be and what they consider qualifies as “interrogation”.
Whether you have been arrested or simply accused, do yourself a favor and consult with an experienced trial lawyer who specializes in criminal defense prior to speaking with law enforcement. A trial lawyer will speak to you about your matter, provide you with some guidance, and assist you in making decisions that are in your best interests. Remember, YOU have the right to remain silent and YOU have the right to an attorney. Please use them!