No one ever plans on being arrested. But, let us say you've had a little too much to drink and have been pulled over, or perhaps you've been caught in possession of marijuana. In these and other circumstances, there is a high probability that you could be arrested by law enforcement. This is the moment when many people make the mistake of talking -- something that could harm your case.
Fortunately, thanks to a 1966 decision by the United States Supreme Court, you must be informed of your right to remain silent and to have an attorney present when being questioned by the police. This information is called the Miranda Warning, after the plaintiff in the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The Miranda Warning sets out your rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution in five parts. They are.
- "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 an attorney."
- "If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you."
- "Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?"
Sometimes, people who are placed under arrest are not read their Miranda rights if the police do not intend to question them right away. However, the moment that law enforcement begins an interrogation, they are legally required to read you your rights.
Being arrested can be an extremely scary and confusing experience. You may believe that you are innocent of any crime, have a valid defense or simply want to explain the situation - and so may be tempted to cooperate with the police and thus waive your Miranda rights. Such a course of action is not advised. In fact, you shouldn't.
Law enforcement officers are adept at teasing out incriminating evidence during an interrogation. The part of the Miranda warning that states "can and will be used against you" in a court of law is as serious as a heart attack.
Remember, you have the right under the Constitution not to incriminate yourself and to have the advice of a lawyer who is skilled in navigating the vagaries of criminal law and dealing with law enforcement on your behalf. Your long-term future may well depend on it.