Understanding Miranda Rights

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Miranda Rights, also referred to as a Miranda Warning, are given to criminal suspects that are in the custody of police before they are asked questions that could result in the admission of guilt relating to a crime committed. Police officers are allowed to ask for certain information  from a suspect without them being in the custody of police or without police issuing the suspect their Miranda Rights. Under the Miranda rights law, a criminal suspect has right to remain silent.

Questions Police Officers can request without issuing Miranda Rights include:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Address

Miranda Rights were first brought into the forefront in the United States in 1966. The United States Supreme Court decision in Miranda vs. Arizona defines the country’s citizen’s rights when it comes to protecting a criminal suspect’s Fifth Amendment rights to avoid self-incriminating themselves when being arrested. In the ruling of this Supreme Court decision the court did not specify the exact wording that must be vocalized to the suspect but the court did set up a set of guidelines that must be followed. Those guidelines are:

The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says may be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him or her.”

Miranda Rights, when being read to a suspect, do not have to be read in any particular order, nor do they have to precisely match the language laid out in the Miranda decision. All that is required when the rights are read is that they must be adequately and fully conveyed to the suspect being arrested by the officer.

What does a common Miranda Rights quote look like?

The most common version of Miranda Rights looks like:

  • 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 have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights?
  • A handful of states across the country have different sentences towards the end of the Miranda Rights and they look like:
  • We have no way of giving you a lawyer, but one will be appointed for you, if you wish, if and when you go to court.
  • If you are not a United States citizen, you may contact your country's consulate prior to any questioning.
  • You can decide at any time from this moment on to terminate the interview and exercise these rights.
  • Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

When a suspect is being placed under arrest by a law enforcement official, they can provide an affirmative answer to either of the final two statements mentioned above. When they provide an affirmative answer they are waving their rights in the presence of the arresting officer. The first question mentioned above must be asked by an arresting officer. If the suspect being arrested answers ‘no’ to this question then the officer must reread the suspect’s rights to make sure that they understand their rights upon arrest. An arresting officer or interviewing officer cannot begin to question the suspect being arrested until their rights are waived. If they do not waive their rights then the suspect cannot be questioned until their lawyer is present.

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