What You Should Know About Your 5th Amendment Rights
What are your Miranda Rights? The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution tells us that we cannot be compelled in a criminal case to be a witness against ourselves. This is known as the 5th Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination. While most everyone has heard of Miranda Rights from watching TV, many people do not understand why and when one must be informed of these rights. It is our goal to help you understand these important rights.
A humorous outtake from the movie Shrek 2
Miranda v. Arizona, Hallmark Supreme Court Case
In 1966, the United States Supreme Court considered the appeal of four different defendants who all made statements while being interrogated by the police that led to their convictions at trial. All had been interviewed in a room where they were cut off from the outside world, and none were given a full and effective warning of their rights at the beginning of their interview. The Supreme Court granted their appeals, stating that at the outset, if a person in custody is going to be subjected to interrogation, he must first be informed in clear and unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain silent. This warning is an absolute prerequisite to overcoming the pressures of the interrogation atmosphere. The warning is meant to show the person that the interrogators are prepared to recognize the privilege if it is exercised.
So, what are your Miranda Rights?
- You have the right to remain silent.
- An explanation that anything you say can and will be used against you in court.
- You have the right to consult with an attorney and have counsel present during the interrogation.
- If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you.
A cartoon dramatization of how a typical Miranda Rights discussion occurs in most attorney consultations (slightly amusing if you like animated cartoon figures).
Many people mistakenly believe that the police must advise them of these rights any time they are arrested or questioned. Miranda Rights must be given only when they are going to be questioned while in police custody or have otherwise been deprived of his or her freedom of action in any significant way. If the police ask you to come to the police station and you agree voluntarily, any statements you make can be used against you – with or without being advised of Miranda Rights.
Some people also believe that if they are not advised of their Miranda Rights that their case will be dismissed. This is also incorrect as failure to advise of Miranda is not a basis for the case to be dismissed. The sanction for not being advised of Miranda is that the statements cannot be used in court unless you choose to testify and say something different. If there is other evidence to support the State's case against you, you can still be convicted.
Most people will still choose to make statements even after being advised of their Miranda Rights. No one likes being confronted in a room alone. It is human nature to want to say something when you feel under pressure. Some people think that if they don't say something, they will look guilty. Miranda makes it very clear that if you choose to remain silent, that decision can never be used against you, so put Miranda to work for you if you find yourself being questioned by the police.
KNOW THAT YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT AT ALL TIMES, whether you have been arrested or not. You have the right to say nothing, have the capacity to use it.