Breaking Down Your Miranda Rights

Miranda Rights, arrested, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyOver and over again on television dramas, the case is resolved with the arrest of a suspect while the arresting officer recites the familiar words, “You have the right to remain silent.” Most people are familiar with the idea of Miranda Rights, but many do not clearly understand what they represent or how they came to be such an important part of the legal process.

Why are They Called “Miranda” Rights?

The warnings that so many associate with the arrest of a suspect take their name from a Supreme Court decision dating back to 1966. In that case, a man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, robbery, and rape. During interrogation, Miranda eventually confessed to the crimes and was convicted. He appealed on the grounds that his confession was not voluntary and that no attorney was present during questioning. The United States Supreme Court ultimately agreed and overturned Miranda’s initial conviction. Miranda would later be retried without the confession being permitted as evidence and was convicted again.

What Do They Mean?

The Supreme Court, despite requiring that a suspect must be informed of his or her rights, did not mandate a standardization of Miranda Warnings. Therefore, there may be some difference in exact wording without compromising their validity. The Miranda Rights can be paraphrased fairly simply for easier understanding:

  • You have the right to remain silent: The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution protects a citizen from being required to testify against himself. Therefore, an accused suspect may choose to say nothing;
  • Anything you say can and will be used against in a court of law: By giving up the right to remain silent, a person’s words are generally assumed to be voluntary. They can, therefore, be used in the prosecution of that individual;
  • You have the right to an attorney: Television versions of the Miranda Rights often leave off the portion that continues “present during questioning.” The high court identified that legal counsel for the accused is “indispensable” for the protection of his or  her rights during interrogation; and
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you: This portion clarifies that the right to an attorney is not only for those who can pay for it. The right to legal counsel is not based on financial means and even the poorest suspect retains that right.

Miranda Rights and Arrests

It is important to realize that a suspect can be arrested without being read his or her Miranda Rights. The notification of Miranda Rights is necessary prior to questioning and not necessarily at the time of arrest. In the event a suspect is not notified of his or her rights, the statements and results from interrogation may not be admissible, but other evidence may still be used to support the case.

If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, a qualified lawyer can help ensure that all appropriate procedures have been followed, including the notification of Miranda Rights. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Chicago today to schedule a free consultation. We are committed to protecting your rights throughout every step of the legal process.

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