By: Gregory Rollins
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“I Have The Right To What Now?”- Explaining Your Miranda Rights And Why They’re Important
Almost all of us have heard about our Miranda Rights. How many times have we watched a crime show when we’ve heard the police reading someone their rights? But few of us actually know what our Miranda Rights are, when they apply, and how we can exercise them to protect ourselves. When I was a prosecutor, I saw countless cases where a defendant did not take advantage of their Miranda rights and as a result their statements were used against them in court. This article provides a helpful overview of the Miranda Rights.
1. What are 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 provided 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?”
- The right to remain silent.
One of the most famous Miranda rights is “the right to remain silent.” This right is based on the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. What this means is that a person cannot be coerced to make a statement to the police that would incriminate them.
- The right to have an attorney present.
The right to have an attorney is fundamental for a Defendant in a court of law. It is also important to have one’s attorney present during police interrogation to ensure that one is not coerced into self-incrimination.
- The right to have an attorney provided if you cannot afford one.
The right to an attorney is incredibly important, but not everyone has the financial means to afford an attorney to defend them in a criminal case. For those who cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to have an attorney appointed to represent you at little or no charge.
2. Who is protected by the Miranda Rights?
The Miranda Rights protect any person, accused of a crime and taken into the custody of law enforcement.
3. When do the Miranda Rights apply in a criminal case?
The Miranda Rights are activated as soon as a person is placed in police custody. Once a person is in police custody, the police cannot question or interrogate that person without first advising that person of their Miranda Rights. If that person invokes their Miranda rights, the police cannot question or interrogate that person. But if a suspect is advised of their rights and then chooses to answer questions or make statements, that person has waived their Miranda Rights. When a person waives their Miranda rights, anything they say can and will be used against them.
4. Where do the Miranda Rights come from?
The Miranda Rights stem from the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona. In the original criminal case, the defendant, Ernesto Miranda, was arrested after being identified by the victim. He was interrogated for two hours and after that, signed a confession. He was found guilty and sentenced to 20-30 years in Arizona prison. Upon appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that his constitutional rights were not violated and denied his appeal. The case eventually went before the United States Supreme Court. After three days of arguing, the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Earl Warren in a 5-4 decision, held that an accused’s Fifth Amendment rights do protect them even when not in a courtroom. The Supreme Court also found that the Prosecution may not use statements made by a defendant if those statements were coerced by law enforcement.
5. Why are the Miranda Rights important?
The Miranda Rights are important because they are an extension of the Fifth Amendment right protecting against self-incrimination (testifying against one’s self) in a court of law.
For more helpful information about your Miranda Rights, you can go to www.mirandawarning.org.
*Special thanks to Volunteer Intern Caelan Thompson who assisted in researching and writing this article.*
Criminal defense attorney and former Riverside County prosecutor Gregory Rollins uses his unique experience and expertise to defend the rights of the accused, provide meaningful legal advice to his clients, and to fight for the best possible outcome for every client in every case. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it is important to make sure that your rights (or those of your loved-one) are protected.
Contact criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Gregory Rollins to set up a free consultation.