Miranda Rights: Part One
You have the right to remain silent, but what does that really mean?
This week marks the 50th anniversary of Miranda v. Arizona, the case that spawned the infamous phrase:
Miranda v. Arizona established the legal principle that anyone arrested and questioned about a criminal offense must be told that: (1) they don’t have to actually talk to police (they have the right to remain silent) and (2) they have a right to legal counsel (you have the right to an attorney).
What You Need to Know About Miranda Rights
You may know how to recite it, but do you know what it actually means? Many people can recite the warnings word for word, but still not understand what they mean. In fact, many people arrested for a criminal offense, will often waive their rights, without even knowing they’ve done so. Here’s what you need to know about Miranda:
Protection from Self-Incrimination — The legal basis for being given Miranda warnings is the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that “[n]o person shall be…compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This fundamental right is known as protection from self-incrimination. Simply put, people charged with criminal offenses shouldn’t be slammed by what they say. By remaining silent, you’re ensuring that you won’t be convicted of a criminal offense based on the things you say to the cops.
Your Right to Counsel — Miranda warnings also make you aware that you have the right to legal counsel. The legal basis for this is the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says that the right to a trial includes the right “to have the assistance of counsel for [your] defense.” The law has recognized that your right to the help of an attorney to start preparing your defense begins as soon as you have contact with the police. That’s why the cops have to read you the Miranda warnings. And that’s why it’s important not to waive your Miranda rights. In doing so, you could be giving up your plan of defense.
Purpose of Miranda Warnings
The primary purpose of Miranda rights is to protect you against police misconduct. Should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being given Miranda warnings by a police officer, the best course of action is to immediately insist on a lawyer. Often, many of my clients believe they are doing the right thing by cooperating with police. It’s only when their statements harmfully impact their case do they see the detriment of waiving their rights and talking with the police. My advice: protect yourself, never waive your rights, and always ask for an attorney.
This is Part One on my series discussing Miranda Rights which offers a general overview. To learn more about the protections of Miranda, see Part Two of this series. How do you assert your Miranda Rights? Check out Part Three of this series. And for an in-depth discussion on Miranda Rights in Georgia, see Part Four.