If you’ve watched any fictionalized crime show on television, you might notice a pattern any time police arrest someone. They often read a suspect their rights, the minute they put the handcuffs on. Usually, police will say something like the following:
“You are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”
Miranda warnings and rights
These are part of what’s known as a Miranda warning, and in real life, police are required to be read these anytime someone has been officially taken into police custody and before anyone is interrogated. Most often, this happens after an arrest. Miranda warnings are part of a suspect’s Miranda rights, which protect people against self-incrimination as part of the Fifth Amendment.
Miranda rights also have a few more elements that aren’t portrayed as much on TV. These include not only giving suspects the option of choosing to stay silent before any interrogation, but also during an interrogation. Police must stop an interrogation if someone exercises their right to stay silent. In addition, anyone being interrogated by police can request to have their lawyer present during police questioning. Again, if someone in police custody requests their lawyer be present during an interrogation, the interrogation must stop.
When police might not give Miranda warnings
However, police don’t give Miranda warnings anytime they question someone. You must be in police custody to receive a Miranda warning. So, if you are questioned by police at a traffic stop or at a crime scene, any statements you make still could be used against you in court, even though no Miranda warning was given.
Also, in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police don’t have to re-read a Miranda warning for a second interrogation. So even if you invoke your Miranda rights in the first interrogation, and then weeks later, undergo another interrogation in police custody and give them incriminating evidence, what you say in the second interrogation can be used against you.
What to do after an arrest
If you are arrested or detained by police, it’s always best to remain silent and request having a lawyer present for any questioning. A criminal defense attorney can help you present your best case against a conviction and advise you when you shouldn’t answer police questioning.