Invoking Your Rights Under Miranda v. Arizona
“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. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me? ”
The U.S. Supreme Court held in Miranda v. Arizona, that during a custodial interrogation of a suspect, the police must advise the suspect of their rights, before they begin questioning. It seems like a simple thing. Yet everyday, when people are questioned by the police, they waive their rights and begin talking – usually making whatever case the police have against them much stronger. People have the right to remain silent, but they often don’t have the ability to do so!
Once the police advise you of your rights, it is your choice to waive your rights or to invoke your rights. If you waive your rights, and agree to talk, they will continue to question you until they believe you have been truthful – in other words, until you confess. If you invoke your rights, and ask for a lawyer, the police must immediately stop questioning you.
In many cases, people don’t invoke their rights, because the officer doesn’t read the last part of the Miranda warning: “With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” The officer simply asks if the suspect understands the rights, and if the suspect says yes, the officer launches into questions. People are blindsided, and start answering.
Many people waive their rights and agree to answer questions, because they are taught from the time they are small to cooperate with authority, and that honesty is the best policy. They believe that if they are cooperative and truthful, they will be rewarded. Unfortunately, in the world of criminal law, people who are honest when questioned by the police, are not usually better off. If you admit to a crime, the police have more evidence against you, and that evidence “is used against you in a court of law.” When you confess, a weak case, with questionable evidence, suddenly becomes airtight.
Sometimes people confess because the police lie to them. For example, we have represented clients accused of consensual sex with minors under the age of 16. Sex with minors under the age of 16 is a crime in Florida, regardless of the minor’s consent. Many times, the police have just the word of minor or her parents that the sex occurred, and no physical evidence – not a strong case. The police begin questioning a suspect by saying, “She says you raped her, we want your side of the story.” The young man replies, “I didn’t force her! She consented to have sex!” The police then have his confession that sex with an underage minor occurred – strong evidence of a serious felony offense.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself before you are questioned by the police, is to invoke your rights. Don’t sign a waiver of rights form. Don’t answer any questions. Don’t try to explain yourself. Politely and firmly inform law enforcement you would like an attorney present before you answer any questions.
Most people do not have experience dealing with the law enforcement. Don’t agree to be interviewed without an attorney. If law enforcement contacts you, because they want to speak with you regarding an investigation, contact us first. We will consult with you regarding whether or not it is in your best interest to speak with the police. If there is an innocent explanation to provide them, we will help you do that. If it is better for you to remain silent, we will make sure you do so.