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What the Miranda Rights Really Mean

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The exact wording of the "Miranda Rights" statement is not specified in the Supreme Court's historic decision. Instead, law enforcement agencies have created a basic set of simple statements that can be read to accused persons prior to any questioning.

Here are paraphrased examples of the basic "Miranda Rights" statements, along with related excerpts from the Supreme Court's decision.

1. You have the right to remain silent.

The Court: "At the outset, if a person in custody is to be subjected to interrogation, he must first be informed in clear and unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain silent."

2. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.

The Court: "The warning of the right to remain silent must be accompanied by the explanation that anything said can and will be used against the individual in court."

3. You have the right to have an attorney present now and during any future questioning.

The Court: "...the right to have counsel present at the interrogation is indispensable to the protection of the Fifth Amendment privilege under the system we delineate today. ... [Accordingly] we hold that an individual held for interrogation must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation under the system for protecting the privilege we delineate today."

4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you free of charge if you wish.

The Court: "In order fully to apprise a person interrogated of the extent of his rights under this system then, it is necessary to warn him not only that he has the right to consult with an attorney, but also that if he is indigent a lawyer will be appointed to represent him. Without this additional warning, the admonition of the right to consult with counsel would often be understood as meaning only that he can consult with a lawyer if he has one or has the funds to obtain one.

The Court continues by declaring what the police must do if the person being interrogated indicates that he or she does want a lawyer...

"If the individual states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present. At that time, the individual must have an opportunity to confer with the attorney and to have him present during any subsequent questioning. If the individual cannot obtain an attorney and he indicates that he wants one before speaking to police, they must respect his decision to remain silent."

But -- You can be arrested without being read your Miranda Rights

The Miranda rights do not protect you from being arrested, only from incriminating yourself during questioning. All police need to legally arrest a person is "probable cause" -- an adequate reason based on facts and events to believe the person has committed a crime.

Police are required to "Read him his (Miranda) rights," only before interrogating a suspect. While failure to do so may cause any subsequent statements to be thrown out of court, the arrest may still be legal and valid.

Also without reading the Miranda rights, police are allowed to ask routine questions like name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number necessary to establishing a person's identity. Police can also administer alcohol and drug tests without warning, but persons being tested may refuse to answer questions during the tests.

Source: Court TV Legal Survival Guide

An Ironic Ending for Ernesto Miranda

Ernesto Miranda was given a second trial at which his confession was not presented. Based on the evidence, Miranda was again convicted of kidnapping and rape. He was paroled from prison in 1972 having served 11 years.

In 1976, Ernesto Miranda, age 34, was stabbed to death in a fight. Police arrested a suspect who, after choosing to exercise his Miranda rights of silence, was released.

  • Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About the Miranda Warnings

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