What Are Miranda Rights?

One of the biggest stories coming out of Boston was the news that Dzhokhar Tsarnev, the suspect in custody for the bombing of the Boston Marathon, was not going to be read his Miranda Rights. This created quite the uproar on the internet by constitutional rights enthusiasts. But most would be interested to know that your Miranda Rights, at least the version read to arrests by the police, are not actually in the constitution. The Miranda Rights, also known as a Miranda Warning, are actually words that police officers have to say to a suspect under arrest for the suspicion of committing a crime.

The wording of Miranda Rights often varies from person to person, but essentially informs the suspect that they have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.  Miranda Rights became U.S. law following the 1966 Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona. The decision found that during the arrest of Ernesto Miranda, his fifth and sixth amendment rights were violated by not informing Miranda of his right to remain silent during interrogation and his right to have an attorney.

The issue in Tsarnev’s case was whether the public safety exception applied. The Supreme Court of the United States determined in New York v. Quarles (1984) that Miranda doesn’t apply in cases where there is a situation in which public safety is a concern.

In a Miranda warning, it’s important that the police officer who is committing the arrest states the following;

  1. You have the right to remain silent- this statement stems from the Fifth Amendment which contains a self-incrimination clause.
  2. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law- meaning that statements you make during interrogation and evidence gathering may be used as evidence of your guilt during a trial or hearing.
  3. You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking with the police or have an attorney present during questioning – any suspect has the right to talk to an attorney before deciding whether to cooperate with the police or during an interrogation.
  4. If you can not afford an attorney, one will be appointed prior to questioning.
  5. Knowing and understanding these rights, are you willing to answer questions without an attorney present?

It’s important to note that merely telling a suspect of his or he rights does not fully satisfy the Miranda Rule. If you are read your Miranda Rights, you must reply to the officer that you understand your rights using clear and concise language. If a suspect is in the middle of an interrogation and asserts his or her need for an attorney, the police must honor their request immediately.

If you or a loved one are arrested under suspicion for a crime and suspect your Miranda Rights have been violated, talk to a criminal law attorney about your concerns.

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