Miranda Warnings and the Rights of Arrestees

"Trust me, things will be easier for you if you cooperate."

Nearly every criminal suspect hears these words, and too many fall for the false promises that they embody. If you've been arrested, the police aren't interested in protecting your well-being - they want to collect evidence that will prove their case. They want you to confess so they can wrap up their investigation and move on to the next one.

After an arrest, you have a right to remain silent and refuse to talk to the police. Exercise this right; police have special training in interrogation techniques that manipulate you into confessing to a crime you didn't commit or into signing away your rights. Police and prosecutors will then use any statements you give to make any sort of favorable plea deal impossible or even to convict you of a crime and put you in prison for the rest of your life.

Courts around the country have found that you need to expressly inform law enforcement officials that you will answer no questions, though, and you implicitly want to invoke your right to have a criminal defense lawyer present before any questioning takes place.

It is imperative that you exercise both of these rights. Anything - absolutely anything - you say to the police can and will be used against you in a criminal prosecution. You may not even realize that you are incriminating yourself until it is too late, so it is in your best interests to provide only your name and address until your attorney arrives.

What Are Miranda Rights?

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects criminal suspects from being compelled to offer self-incriminating evidence. The Constitutional protections offered are usually referred to as a "Miranda warning," named

After arrest, police are required to read a statement that informs suspects of their rights to remain silent, contact an attorney and have a public defender appointed if they cannot to hire a private attorney. Police are also required to inform suspects that anything they say can eventually be used against them at trial.

Suspects may waive this right and agree to talk with the police. This is almost never a good idea, though. It is always better to discuss the case with an attorney before submitting to police questioning. Too often, suspects do irreparable damage to their case by talking to the police before consulting with a lawyer.

It is important to note that your waiver of your right to have an attorney present during questioning can be rescinded at any time. All you have to do is tell police that you now want to speak with an attorney and that you no longer want to answer questions without a lawyer present.

Further, it is also important to understand that police are only required to read your Miranda rights once you are both in their custody (not necessarily under arrest, but that you do not feel like you have the right to leave if you wish) and they are going to start interrogating you. If you blurt something out - say in the back of the squad car while you are being detained or while the police are handcuffing you during an arrest - that might not count as interrogation for legal purposes, but anything you say during those times will still be used against you if it implicates you in any way. Don't try to talk your way out of an arrest or offer an explanation for your actions. Just invoke your right to stay silent, ask for legal counsel, stay calm and wait to sort the issue out with a skilled criminal defense attorney.

If police have questioned you after arrest without informing you of your Miranda rights, be sure tell this to your attorney. In many cases, the police might not be able to use this evidence at trial unless they have informed you of your rights.

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