Understanding Miranda and Your Rights

We have all heard the warnings on TV or in the movies.  You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney…  The infamous Miranda Rights.  Why are they called Miranda rights?  Because  the United States Supreme Court decided a case entitled Miranda vs. the State of Arizona.  In that case, the court outlined rights a suspect has in a criminal investigation.  Those rights have become staples in American criminal jurisprudence, and are now commonly known as the Miranda rights. The Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower have been involved with numerous cases involving Miranda Rights. Read our blog and this give us a call.
First step is to know when do Miranda warnings apply.  Many times clients tell us they asked me a question and I answered it, but they didn’t read me my rights.  Well, that could be because Miranda rights only apply to situations where the police are conducting a custodial interrogation.  In other words, if the police are just engaging you in conversation, and you are not in custody, then they do not have to read you Miranda warnings and can use your statements against you.  To determine if you are in a custodial interrogation, the courts look at if a reasonable person in a similar circumstance would feel free to leave the situation.  So, things like the setting, the tone, how the police are dressed, who is present, where is it at, are  handcuffs used, etc. etc. become very important in determining if a person is in custody and therefore due their Miranda warnings.
The questioning also must be interrogation.  If the police are just asking general questions about your name or background and you blurt out an answer that is non-responsive, then that statement may still be used.  However, if you are in custody and they are asking you questions about a crime, then they must first read you your Miranda rights.
So, what are the rights?

  • You have the right to remain silent. (this is 100% protected.  If you are being asked questions about a crime, you can invoke your right to remain silent and there is nothing that the police can do).
  • Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law.  (This warning is very important.  If you do decide to engage the police they will use any incriminating statement against you)
  • You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. (Probably the most important right.  If you invoke your right to an attorney, do so clearly and without equivocation.  Something along the lines of “I do not want to proceed with any questions without my lawyer.”  At that point the interrogation must stop until your attorney is present)
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.  (Again, don’t just toss out your right to an attorney because you can’t afford one.  Invoke your rights and if the court determines you can’t afford an attorney, a public defender will be appointed for you).
  • If you decide to answer any questions now, without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.  (This means exactly what it says.  If you decide to proceed without counsel, and you get uncomfortable with the line of questioning, then say “I want this questioning stopped until I have an attorney”  at that point the interrogation should cease).
  • Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?  (This question, or one like it, is what the police will do to try to get you to waive your rights.  In addition to this, they will likely ask you to sign a written waiver).

So, it is very important to know and understand your rights.  If you are not comfortable with a police line of questioning, remember two rules.  Remain silent and ask for a lawyer.  After you have done this, the police should refrain from questioning you until you have an attorney present to assist and advise you.
If the police do not follow proper procedures regarding Miranda warnings, what happens?  If the police violate the rule regarding Miranda, your attorney can file a motion to suppress any statement and any evidence derived from that statement and ask the court to exclude the same.  For example, if you are in custody and the police question you regarding a crime without the proper warnings, then your attorney should seek to suppress any statement you give.
This is a very basic discussion and description of the Miranda rights.  There are literally hundreds of court decisions that address these rights and how they apply to various different fact patterns.  If you are under investigation and are being interrogated about a crime, remember your rights, it may just be the one thing that protects you.
If you have been the subject of a criminal investigation, you should hire attorneys that understand this area the law.  The Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower know Miranda and its implications and can help you through your situation.