With the popularity of crime dramas
on television, most Americans have heard the Miranda warnings, which law enforcement officers must give before
you are taken into custody for interrogation by any U.S. local, state or
federal government authority:
have the right to remain silent.
you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
have the right to talk to a lawyer and have your lawyer present with you while
you are being questioned.
you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you
before any questioning, if you wish.
you give up your right to remain silent, and later wish to stop answering
questions, no further questions will be asked.
While we have all heard them,
comparatively few of us truly understand the impact of the 1966 United States
Supreme Court decision in Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
Q: How do I know if I am
A: Circumstances vary, but generally, if a reasonable person does
not feel free to leave the presence of governmental law enforcement, then that
person is said to be “in custody.” If you are in custody, you must be informed
of your Miranda rights, and agree to waive
those rights, before authorities may ask you any questions.
Q: What happens if I waive
my Miranda rights?
your Miranda rights means that you
agree to answer questions, even without a lawyer present. Governmental authorities who routinely arrest
and question individuals about alleged criminal acts often provide Miranda waiver forms. People can read
their rights and sign the form to say they are giving up their Miranda rights and consenting to
questioning while in custody. However, as long as you have heard and understood
your Miranda rights, but go ahead and
speak with authorities or answer their questions, then your behavior is a valid
waiver of those rights, even if you have not signed any paper.
Q: What if I want the authorities to stop
A: You cannot simply remain silent if you want authorities to
stop questioning you. Instead, you must say, out loud, “I wish to remain
silent” or “I am requesting legal counsel.” Then, authorities must immediately stop
questioning you while you are in custody.
Q: Is there
any circumstance where police don’t have to give the Miranda warnings?
There is a rarely-used exception that lets authorities take a suspect into
custody without reading the Miranda
rights when there is a risk to the public’s safety. This exception made
headlines after Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was
Q: If I say I want to
remain silent, does my right to remain silent last forever?
A: No. Even if you are in jail or in police custody, the police
can question you again after 14 days. Also,
if, for example, you are arrested, remain silent, are released, and then are arrested
a few days later, you need to re-assert your right to remain silent. Also, if
you invoke your rights but then just keep talking, you lose that protection.
Q: What if I am in
government custody and authorities are interrogating me, but haven’t read me my
there was no public safety or other exception, your attorney will file a
“motion to suppress” any incriminating statements you may have made to the
authorities. In this motion, your attorney will ask the court to rule that the
prosecutor may not use any of your statements at your trial because that would
violate your rights. If the prosecutor has a very weak case and little evidence
against you other than your statement, such a ruling may convince the
prosecutor to dismiss your case or offer you a favorable plea agreement. Or,
the exclusion of your statement may mean you will not be convicted. However, if
you are caught by seven witnesses and 12 video cameras showing you swinging out
of a bank vault with cash that is not yours, the outcome of government’s case
against you is very unlikely to be affected by any failure to inform you of
This “Law You Can Use”
column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by
Attorney Aaron T. Baker, a solo practitioner in Willoughby, Ohio, and Matthew
C. Bangerter, a solo practitioner in Mentor, Ohio. Articles
appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information
about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem,
readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.
Labels: arrest, Miranda rights