What Are Your Miranda Rights?
A "Miranda warning" refers to the constitutional requirement that after someone is detained by law enforcement, there are specific warnings they are required to give to the detained person. Federal agents must explain these rights and make sure you understand them before they can interrogate you after an arrest.
Under federal law, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution gives you the right not to testify against yourself or say anything that would incriminate you. The Sixth Amendment guarantees you certain rights when you are accused of a crime, including the right to have an attorney defend you.
Both of these rights are encapsulated in what is commonly known as the Miranda rights, also called “Miranda warnings,” a statement of your rights that must be explained to you by law enforcement before they attempt to interrogate you.
If law enforcement fails to “read you your rights” before questioning begins, your answers may be inadmissible in court and cannot be used against you at trial.
While Miranda rights are guaranteed at the federal level, they apply when law enforcement detains and questions you, whether it's the FBI or your local police force.
Even so, there is some confusion among the public as to what these rights are and how they apply—especially if police fail to read them.
Many believe that if they are arrested but the police do not read their rights, they can avoid the consequences of their conduct. This belief is mostly a myth, but there are a few exceptions.
The police are not required to read the Miranda warning when you were arrested as they have nothing to do with the arrest itself, rather only questioning after arrest. Our federal criminal defense lawyers will explore your federal Miranda rights to see how they protect you when you're suspected or accused of a crime.
The Miranda Warnings Explained
The Miranda warnings summarize your Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights that law enforcement must read to you after they arrest you and before they begin questioning you about an alleged crime.
This requirement stems from the 1966 Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona, in which the Court held that law enforcement must inform suspects of their right to remain silent and their right to an attorney before any custodial interrogation can take place.
In this landmark case, the court ruled that the constitutional rights of Ernesto Miranda were violated during his arrest and criminal trial for armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape. The Miranda warnings are as follows, or some version thereof:
- “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. One will be provided for you if you cannot afford an attorney. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? Do you wish to speak to me with these rights in mind?”
If law enforcement fails to read this warning before asking you questions, any evidence acquired may be inadmissible in court.
What Are Some Ways Your Miranda Rights May Be Violated?
The Miranda rights don't just refer to the “Miranda warnings” that police must read to you before interrogating you; they refer to your fundamental rights contained within those statements.
Thus, your Miranda rights may be violated by law enforcement in other ways besides just failing to “read you your rights.” Other possible Miranda rights violations may include:
- Refusing to allow you to have an attorney present during questioning. If the police read you the Miranda warnings, which say you have the right to an attorney, then attempt to question you without one and refuse to permit an attorney in the room, they are directly violating your Miranda rights.
- Attempting to coerce you to make self-incriminating statements. Again, even if they read you your rights first, law enforcement cannot use forceful or manipulative tactics to get you to incriminate yourself (e.g., forcing a confession out of you).
If police violate your rights in these ways, not only is your testimony under those conditions inadmissible in court, but depending on the severity of the violation, your case may even be thrown out of court due to the breach of your rights under federal law.
When Is the Miranda Warning Required by Law?
As noted above, some people mistakenly believe police must read you your rights at the time of your arrest. Although this frequently happens at the time of arrest, it's a misconception that Miranda must be read at this time.
The Miranda warnings must only be read if the police intend to interrogate you. If they don't question you, they're not legally obligated to explain your Miranda rights. Additionally, they can ask you any questions they like without reading the warnings if you're not actually under arrest.
After you read the Miranda warning, police will typically ask if you clearly understand the rights I just explained? Next, they will say, knowing you have the legal right to remain silent and not answer any questions, will you talk to us? This is called a “Miranda waiver.”
If you agree to speak with them, you have just waived your Miranda rights and invoked the right to remain silent. Sometimes, you could be asked to sign a written waiver acknowledging that you have waived your rights.
What happens if law enforcement questions me without reading the Miranda warnings? Suppose you're questioned by law enforcement without being read the Miranda warnings?
In that case, your answers cannot legally be used as evidence against you—and by the way, you still have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer any questions, even if they don't tell you so.
If law enforcement uses information from this illegal questioning against you in court, your attorney can file a motion to suppress this evidence because your Miranda rights were violated.
Can I Still Be Convicted of a Crime if Miranda Rights Were Not Read to Me?
Yes. Failing to read Miranda does not invalidate the arrest itself or the charges against you. It only nullifies any answers you give to law enforcement during questioning, so those answers can't be used to prove your guilt.
You can still be charged with a crime, and prosecutors can present other evidence at trial that may result in your conviction.
However, if the only evidence they have is your interrogation, that evidence is inadmissible if your Miranda rights were violated, and your case should be dismissed.
Put simply; a Miranda violation is not necessarily legal grounds for dismissing the charges against you. It means the information obtained during that violation, including any confessions, can't be used against you.
The prosecution might have additional evidence to prove their case against you and move forward, or they might be forced to drop the case.
You would need legal advice if you were arrested and believed your Miranda rights were violated. Eisner Gorin LLP is in Los Angeles, California. Contact our law firm for an initial consultation by phone or use the contact form.