Most people have seen a crime show on TV where the perpetrator finally gets arrested and the cops quickly start reciting a series of phrases, almost like poetry. “You have the right to remain silent.” “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” These are known as your Miranda rights, and they’re extremely important to know should you ever find yourself in trouble with the law. On this blog, we’ll explain what they are, how they work, and what you should do to take advantage of each of them.
What Are Miranda Rights?
The name “Miranda rights” is given to a series of rights which law enforcement are required to notify you of before they can subject you to questioning. The name comes from a landmark case decided by the Supreme Court back in 1966: Miranda v. Arizona. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that evidence gathered against a suspect could not be used against them unless the suspect had been made aware of several important rights that they hold. Only once a suspect had voluntarily waived these rights or taken advantage of them could their testimony be submitted as evidence.
What are these rights you might ask? Well let’s break them down in greater detail.
You have the right to remain silent.
This one is about as straightforward as it gets. In other words, if you don’t want to answer a question that law enforcement is asking you, you don’t have to. Remaining silent is not an admission of guilt, and it is not something you can be penalized or punished for. Remaining silent allows you to not only avoid incriminating yourself, but also prevents you from potentially facing further consequences from lying to the law enforcement body that’s interrogating you. This is particularly important because of the next part of the statement.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
When you’re arrested on suspicion of a crime, authorities will use your answers given during questioning as evidence when you’re tried for your charges. Any attorney will tell you that even things which may seem mundane or completely let you off the hook could come back to haunt you. Even if you’re completely innocent, you have the right to remain silent, and this is the exact reason why you should use it to the fullest extent.
You have the right to an attorney.
You have the right to legal defense counsel and representation, including the right to have them present at your questioning. You’ve probably seen this on several TV shows: someone gets arrested and refuses to answer questions until they’ve got a lawyer in the room with them advising them on which questions to ask and which questions to refuse to answer. It’s strongly advised that you take full advantage of this right as well. If you wish to have an attorney, you will be permitted to contact them and request their presence at your questioning. A competent Scranton criminal defense lawyer will be able to advise you on the best strategy for navigating your questioning without giving your prosecution any evidence to use against you.
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you at no cost.
Many people believe they cannot afford legal representation, but the good news is even if you can’t, you can still have the strength of a legal counselor on your side. Public defenders are attorneys who are paid using taxpayer money to provide defense for those who face criminal charges. The justice system is designed to offer each person a fair trial, and that means being able to have someone who is knowledgeable and skilled in the practice of law stand up and argue on your behalf, even if you can’t afford the services of a private attorney.
While public defenders can help you through your case, it’s strongly advised you seek private counsel whenever possible. Private criminal defense attorneys often have better control over their caseload, meaning they can give you the adequate attention you deserve. Public defenders are often overwhelmed with cases and usually can’t commit the same level of care and attention that might make the difference in your case.
If you decide to answer 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 one is also pretty clear: while you really shouldn’t submit to questioning without an attorney present, you do have the right to stop answering questions and request an attorney at any time during the questioning process.
Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you,
are you willing to answer my questions with an attorney present?
At this point, you’ll have your first opportunity to request a lawyer. It’s strongly advised you take it and refuse to answer any and all questions from law enforcement until you’ve contacted a Scranton criminal defense attorney.