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Why It’s So Important to Know Your Miranda Rights

In Law
December 20, 2023
Why It’s So Important to Know Your Miranda Rights

“Miranda rights” is a colloquial term for the rights recited to you in a mandatory Miranda warning. Most people know this warning, even if they’ve only heard it in movies and TV shows, but they may not fully understand why these rights are so important or how to fully utilize them.

What exactly are your Miranda rights? Why do they matter? And how can you use them to your advantage?

Miranda Rights: The Basics

A Miranda warning is a legally required warning in the United States, forcing police officers to advise suspects in custody of specific rights and protections. This warning is so named because of a landmark judicial decision from 1966, Miranda v. Arizona.

The specific language used in the Miranda warning varies from location to location, but the warning is considered legally adequate as long as it properly and unambiguously informs suspects of their rights.

It usually manifests as some variation of the following:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions. You have the right to have a lawyer with you during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer questions now without a lawyer present, you have the right to stop answering at any time.”

The important facts covered are:

·       The right to remain silent.

·       The fact that your words and actions can be used against you in a court of law.

·       The right to an attorney, even if you can’t afford one.

Using Your Miranda Rights

So how should you use your Miranda rights?

If you’re ever accused of a crime, arrested, detained, or interrogated, you should do the following:

·       Get a lawyer as soon as possible. A criminal defense lawyer will be able to protect you, hold police officers accountable, ensure fair treatment, and provide you with advice on how to proceed. These legal experts know the system inside and out and will represent you and your best interests, specifically. Accordingly, it’s important to get a lawyer as soon as possible, which means insisting on having a lawyer from the moment you’re arrested or detained. Until your lawyer arrives to start giving advice and contributing to your case, tread cautiously. Also, don’t fall for the common thought trap that “lawyers are for guilty people.” Innocent people can (and do) go to prison for crimes they didn’t commit – and many of them could have prevented such an outcome with proper legal advice.

·       Stay silent. Depending on where you live and what your circumstances are, you may be required to tell police certain pieces of basic identifying information, such as your name and address. You may also be required to provide certain documents, like your driver’s license or vehicle registration. Other than that, you can and should remain silent at all times. You are not required to answer any questions. You are not required to say anything. And because anything you say could hurt you later, it’s best to say nothing. Don’t let the police bully you into answering, and don’t fall for whatever tricks they inevitably pull.

Why Miranda Rights Matter

Why are these rights so important to understand and utilize?

These are just some of the reasons:

·       Innocent people can end up in prison. Innocent people can end up in prison, and it’s not even exceptionally rare; some studies suggest that 4 to 6 percent of all prisoners are innocent of the crimes of which they’re accused. If you accidentally contradict yourself, or say something incriminating, you could end up in jail despite your innocence. This is one reason why it’s so important to maintain silence.

·       You could face additional charges. Regardless of whether you’re innocent or guilty of the crime in question, you could face additional charges if you aren’t careful. Accidentally admitting to a different crime or resisting arrest could cost you your freedom.

·       The police can lie to you. People unjustly trust the police. Police officers can and will lie to you to extract a confession or get you to act in the way they want. Only by following your Miranda rights can you resist such manipulation effectively.

·       Lawyers can help you in many ways. It’s impossible to overstate just how important it is to work with a lawyer as soon as possible. They can help you and strengthen your case in countless ways, starting from the beginning.

Better understanding your Miranda rights puts you in a much better place to succeed if you’re ever detained, arrested, or accused of a crime. Even if all you do is remain silent and wait for your lawyer to arrive, you’ll be better off than other people in a similar situation.