Your Miranda Rights (Part 1 of 3): What Does Miranda Mean For You?

From TV lawyer dramas to the hit franchise “Cops”, millions of Americans have heard the famous words, “You have the right to remain silent…” These words have become a staple in American culture but what exactly do they mean? Miranda v. Arizona just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and this week’s blog will be focused on what your rights are under Miranda, where they apply, and why those rights are important. Any situation where your rights are being read to you can be incredibly stressful and anything that is said can be potentially life changing, which is why it is imperative that we all have a basic understanding of our Miranda rights.

In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the historic case of Miranda v. Arizona, declaring that when a person is taken into police custody, before being questioned he or she must be told of their Fifth Amendment right not to make any self-incriminating statements. As a result of Miranda, anyone in police custody must be told the following:

• You have the right to remain silent.
• Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.
• You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police.
• You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning.
• If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.
• If you decide to answer questions without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.
• Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?

Let’s address your right to remain silent and why being able to utilize this right can be imperative to preserving your freedom. Under Miranda, remaining silent cannot be used against you because it is your right to refuse to answer questions during the interrogation and request that an attorney be present during the interrogation process. However during pre-Miranda, silence was seen as odd or suspicious by law enforcement. In addition, if you decided to remain silent prior to arrest and prior to the reading of your Miranda rights then your silence could have been used against you in court.

In Salinas v. Texas(2013), the privilege of remaining silent was not “expressly invoked” by the accused and this silence was used against him. Salinas v. Texas will be discussed in Part 2 of this topic, which will be posted in the near future.