You can’t watch any kind of crime drama or detective story without being somewhat aware of your Miranda rights, and this important protection against police coercion is often taught in school government classes.
Just the same, many people don’t fully understand how Miranda rights work – and they don’t know when and how to invoke them. Here are the three most important things you need to know:
- The police don’t necessarily have to give you a Miranda warning when you’re arrested.
Do you think the police made a mistake when you were arrested because they didn’t inform you of your rights? Are you hoping that will get your case dismissed?
Think again: The police are only required to give you a Miranda warning when you are both in custody (unable to freely leave) and being interrogated (asked material questions about a crime).
- The police can ask you anything they want – and use it against you – before you’re arrested.
Most police officers are very canny: They understand that their best chance of getting a defendant to incriminate themselves comes before an arrest is made.
For that reason, they often ask a lot of intrusive questions (via a “friendly” chat) before they tell you that you’re being detained. It’s important to remember that anything you say to the police can end up being retold in court, even if you weren’t yet under arrest or given your Miranda warning.
- You don’t have to wait until you hear a Miranda warning to invoke your right to remain silent.
Your right against self-incrimination is absolute, so you don’t need anybody’s reminder (or permission) to invoke them.
If you’re in a situation where the police are asking you leading or uncomfortable questions, you can simply say that you’ve been taught to never speak to law enforcement without an attorney present and that you’re exercising your right to remain silent.
Whatever criminal charges you may be facing, the best defense starts with silence in the face of police questioning. Invoke your rights until you can thoroughly explore all your legal options.