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Self Incrimination

Self Incrimination

The Fifth Amendment to the constitution protects you against incriminating yourself. This precious right is unique to the Unites States’ judicial system. The Miranda Warning was created in the 1960s to further protect this right when individuals are interrogated by the police. Many people, intimidated by the authority held by police, would confess anything when asked because they are frightened by the consequences of refusing to answer questions. When police ask questions and expect to use the answers as evidence at a trial, they are required to ‘Mirandize’ a suspect so the person knows exactly what his or her rights are as regards police questioning.

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 that you have changed your mind and wish to have an attorney present after all.

There are two rules of law that also help the unwitting suspect who speaks without asking for an attorney’s assistance first: the Harmless Error Doctrine and the Automatic Reveral Rule.

The Harmless Error Doctrine is a law that states that if a person’s involuntary confession is used as evidence at trial, but there is overwhelming evidence against the suspect anyway, making the confession negligible in its impact upon the jury, a conviction will be upheld.

The Automatic Reversal Rule states that if a suspect’s involuntary confession is used as evidence at his or her trial, and it can be proved that the defendant was not properly read the Miranda Warning or did not understand the rights explicit in that warning, then the defendant’s constitutional rights have been abused and any conviction will probably be dropped.

The United States legal system is designed to carefully protect a defendant’s rights. An attorney is the best person to guide an individual through the labyrinth of complicated laws that both protect a suspect while upholding the laws of our country.