Welcome back to school and welcome to our "Know Your Rights" Series! Every other week we will be posting on a topic that is essential to understanding your rights protected under federal and state law. We are launching our series with an analysis of your Miranda Rights.
As 21 Jump Street taught us, there are a lot of misconceptions and confusion around the reading of and the meaning of Miranda Rights. Let's break it down:
When Does an Officer Have to Read You Your Miranda Rights?
The police do not need to read you your Miranda Rights in order to ask you a question. Miranda Rights are to be read during what is known as a "custodial interrogation", which is when you are being questioned and are no longer free to leave. If you believe that you are being questioned in suspicion of committing a crime, you should assert your rights politely; decline to answer any further questions, ask if you are free to leave, and contact an attorney.
What are Miranda Rights?
Miranda Rights were established by the 1966 Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona. Miranda aims to inform you of your constitutionally protected rights and ensure that they are preserved. Miranda Rights read as follows: You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be held 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.
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
After being read these rights, you may choose to remain silent. You are not incriminating yourself by refusing to answer any questions, and your silence cannot be used against you in court. However, if you choose to be silent before being read your Miranda Rights, your behavior may be seen as suspect. If the officer has not read you your Miranda Rights, ask if you are free to leave or if you can refrain from answering questions until your attorney is present. In short, comply, be polite, and take care to assert your rights only when it is appropriate.
Anything You Say Can and Will Be Held Against You
During an interrogation, police officers aim primarily for a confession of guilt. If you are suspected of a crime, various interrogation techniques will be employed in order to elicit a confession from you. Under the stressors of an interrogation, it is not uncommon for innocent people to falsely confess. Again, comply and be polite, but assert your rights when it is appropriate. Anything you may say during an interrogation can be admissible in court. The obstacles of the interrogation process may be difficult to navigate, remember you do not have to do it alone.
You Have the Right to an Attorney
The 5th and 6th amendments have been interpreted to guarantee people charged with crimes the assistance of counsel following arrest and throughout the criminal process. Police officers may ask you questions before notifying you of your right to an attorney, but they are not permitted to begin the interrogation process until you are informed of this right. Once your Miranda Rights are read to you, you have the option to waive or assert your right to counsel. If you opt to evoke this right, the police must wait to continue with the interrogation process until your attorney is present.
If You Cannot Afford an Attorney, One Will Be Appointed to You
If you cannot afford an attorney, the state will provide you with a public defender once criminal charges are filed. Unfortunately, public defenders are not typically appointed during the investigatory portion of an investigation.
Should You Waive or Assert Your Miranda Rights?
More often than not, suspects choose to waive their Miranda Rights. Being detained, arrested, and interrogated by police officers is stressful. It is typically framed as preferable for suspects to waive their rights; however, this is not in your best interest. Do not be afraid to assert your constitutionally protected rights.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, the State College Criminal Defense Attorney's at Rehmeyer & Allatt invite you to call our office for a free consultation. We will explore all options and determine the best way to move forward.