One of the fundamental protections U.S. citizens have is the right under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to not make self-incriminating statements. This is known as the Miranda rights, and they apply whenever a person is taken into custody by the police for questioning. Understanding your rights and why it is important to exercise your rights can help you if you are interrogated by the police.
What Are the Miranda Rights?
If you are taken into custody, the police must inform you of your Miranda rights before questioning you. The police must tell you four things:
- You have a right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in court.
- You have a right to an attorney and to have the attorney present when you are questioned.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you.
Being taken into custody is a broad term and includes more than being taken to the police station. This can occur in many places—including jail, the scene of a crime, on a busy street, or at your home. Under any of these situations, if you are being taken into custody, the police must inform you of your Miranda rights.
If you are not being taken into custody—meaning that you are free to leave—the police do not have to inform you of your Miranda rights. However, you are under no obligation to answer their questions, and anything you say could be used against you later. The police may avoid arresting you—and inform you that you can go—in an effort to not have to inform you of your Miranda rights. In this situation, it is usually best not to answer the officer’s questions.
How to Exercise Your Miranda Rights
People sometimes are under the mistaken impression that if they cooperate with the police it will help their case. However, it is almost always better to exercise your Miranda rights and remain silent. You can do so by taking the following steps:
- Tell the officer you do not have anything to say.
- Tell the officer you are exercising your Miranda rights.
- Tell the officer that you want to speak to an attorney.
If you’ve been taken into custody and informed of your Miranda rights, we urge you to contact the Easley Law Firm before talking to the police. Call us today at 888-386-3898 to schedule a free consultation with our experienced criminal defense team.