Growing up, you were probably told that police officers are your friends and are here to help you. While that’s true in many cases, there are times as an adult when you shouldn’t think of things in that manner. Instead, you must protect your rights.
The United States Constitution gives you specific rights, including some that prevent you from having to incriminate yourself. This right is so important that police officers must remind you about it in particular circumstances.
What is the Miranda warning?
You’ve probably heard police officers in crime shows tell people they have the right to remain silent because what they say can be used in a legal case against them. They go on to tell them they have the right to have an attorney when questioned. Those statements are their Miranda warning.
Once you’re read those rights, the officers will ask you if you understand them. At that point, you need to state that you want to exercise your Miranda rights. At the very minimum, you should say, “I choose to remain silent.” This gives you essential protection against self-incrimination. If you don’t invoke your rights either verbally or in writing, the police officers can continue with questioning.
After invoking your Miranda rights, the police officers must stop asking you questions. This applies to all officers, so they can’t send in a new team or someone from a different office. The Miranda warning is meant to help prevent involuntary confessions made by coercion during an interrogation.
It’s up to the police officer to ensure that you understand your rights. The case that resulted in the Miranda rights becoming required involved a man who confessed to a crime without understanding his rights. Ernesto Miranda was interrogated for two hours before he made the statement. Ultimately, the court ruled that he didn’t waive his rights because he didn’t understand his rights.
Every criminal charge should be taken seriously because of what’s at stake. Be sure you work with someone familiar with these matters so you can learn your options and set your defense strategy quickly.