• What is the Miranda Warning?
The Miranda Warning was created in the 1960s to protect the rights of those questioned by the police in a coercive or threatening manner. Some individuals are intimidated by police authority and need to have their rights explained to them. The wording is clear and simple:
“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 for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
Some police departments in Indiana, New Jersey, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Alaska add the following sentence:
“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.”
• Can I waive my rights after they have been read to me?
The officer will offer you the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney if you wish to have one present. You can waive these rights, if you wish, and speak freely with the police. If you have been Mirandized and you waive your rights, meaning you wish to speak to police freely without an attorney present, you can change your mind at any time and ‘plead the fifth,’ meaning you no longer wish to answer questions, or state that you have changed your mind and wish to have an attorney present after all.
• If I am arrested and an officer fails to read me my rights, will my charges automatically be dismissed?
If you are arrested and the officer failed to read you the Miranda Warning, your attorney will certainly vigorously use this lapse in procedure to attempt to get your charges dismissed. However, if there is overwhelming evidence that you committed a crime, and the officer did not need to rely on your answers to questions in order to convict you of that crime, there is a good possibility that your conviction will stand.
• A police officer stopped me and asked questions, but did not read me my Miranda Rights. Is this legal?
Any officer has the right to ask you questions; you have the right to politely decline to answer. If the officer asks to see your driver’s license or proof of insurance, you may not refuse to provide those and then ‘plead the fifth,’ meaning you want to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights and not cooperate. When you sign the forms for accepting a driver’s license, you are giving the police permission to ask you for these documents upon request, and you are acknowledging that you will cooperate when asked.
An officer must only read you the Miranda Warning if he or she plans on using your answers as evidence at a trial. Therefore, in many instances you may be stopped and asked questions without being read those rights. You have the right to politely refuse, but the officer may then decide to arrest you for breaking the law in another area, such as loitering (which is a law that can be broadly interpreted so that police can use this as a reason for arrest if they suspect someone is involved in criminal activity).
• I know I’m entitled to have an attorney present or consult with an attorney before I answer a police officer’s questions if I am arrested, but I can’t afford an attorney. What can I do to protect my rights?
In the Miranda Warning, one of the statements is that an attorney will be provided for you if you do not have one. You will be assigned a public defender by the courts.
• I was asked to go to the police station to answer questions, but I don’t want to do that. No one read me my Miranda Rights – do I have to go and answer questions?
If you receive a request to go to the police station to answer questions, or if the police come to you and ask you questions, you do not have to answer them and can politely decline. You can assume, though, that if the police really want to talk to you, they will come up with ‘probable cause’ and either arrest you (requiring that you be read the Miranda Warning) or will get a search warrant if they feel you are in possession of evidence that a crime has been committed.
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