Miranda Rights: What They Are, When They Are Read, and How They Protect

How law enforcement investigates and questions suspects hinge upon our Constitutional rights as Americans. The Miranda Rights ensure we know what our rights are. Here is what you need to know about "reading your rights:"

  • Miranda Rights, protection from false confessions, and your right to legal counsel;
  • When police read you those rights isn't necessarily when the handcuffs come out; And
  • Protecting your Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights does not happen automatically.

Miranda Rights Came to Be for Our Protection

We've all heard police on TV say the Miranda Rights, but do you know why they read the warning? To be "Mirandized" or "read your rights" came about to ensure we as Americans know about our Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.

Before 1966, when police arrested a suspect, they were not required to inform them of those rights. A landmark US Supreme Court decision, Miranda v. Arizona, changed that. From that decision came the Miranda warning language, which must include the following statements in some form or fashion:

  • You have the right to remain silent;
  • Anything you say or do can be used against you in court;
  • You have the right to an attorney;
  • You have a right to have the attorney present while being questioned; And
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.

This language guarantees you clearly understand your legal rights to stay quiet and retain an attorney, your Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights, respectively.

If a person is arrested and not told these rights, how were they to know they were self-incriminating by talking or that they can consult with an attorney before answering questions? Those questions were the basis for the argument to set up Miranda Rights. The entire general public is not Constitutional Law experts, so it became necessary to ensure they knew the protections afforded to them.

Things people say can be twisted and manipulated to law enforcement's advantage, and some police interrogation tactics coerce confessions from suspects. The Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court case proved that when a defendant is not informed of their rights, confessions lose credibility and are not legally obtained.

Although police must read those rights, when the handcuffs come out, they don't mean they immediately read the warning.

 

When Are Miranda Rights Read by Police?

Crime drama television leads you to believe that when a person gets arrested and put in handcuffs, police read the Miranda Rights. That is not the case in Maryland and most states.

Officers are only required to inform a defendant of their rights when they are in custody and interrogated. If arrested in Maryland, the police don't have to read the Miranda Rights to you. Only if they question you does the warning need read.

Law enforcement might not need to question a person about a crime. Evidence collected through other means may allow police to conduct a full investigation without speaking to the defendant.

During an arrest, if an officer asks you questions other than basic identifiers, then they are interrogating you and should read the Miranda Rights. Making a statement in reply to an officer's question is considered a response to interrogation, and the officer needs to read the Miranda Rights. 

In Maryland, officers also do not need to Mirandize juvenile suspects or notify parents of questioning – remember, "It's 11 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?" Our state lawmakers are trying to change this flaw in Maryland law by introducing the Juvenile Interrogation Protection Act, JIPA. During the 2021 legislative session, the measure passed the House but did not make it onto the Senate's plan.

We at JC Law urge you to reach out to your state representatives and let them know children also deserve protections of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. The Constitution covers all Americans, not a subset labeled "adults."

 

How Miranda Rights Protect You

An officer reads the Miranda rights, but that is only informative; it does not afford you the protections under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. A person must invoke their rights to protection. Invoking your rights must be done clearly and emphatically, "I want a lawyer. I am implementing my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent."

If someone does not do so clearly, law enforcement may continue to question the defendant. The things said and done while in custody and answering questions may still be admissible in court and used against you.

A person may invoke their rights at any time, even after they have begun talking to the police. Usually, law enforcement has a form to fill out verifying that these rights were stated to you. On this form, you either invoke your rights or waive those rights.

Yes, you can waive your Miranda Rights and talk to the police. We do not recommend waiving your rights and talking to the police because anything said WILL be used against you as law enforcement tries to make a case proving your guilt. 

Words can be manipulated and twisted, making what you say extremely dangerous since it might self-incriminate without realizing it. As they say, don't go sticking your foot in your mouth.

Invoking your Miranda Rights is the best step. It ensures your rights to not self-incriminate, your right to counsel, and that the statement is obtained legally by law enforcement.

You're already in custody; the police can wait to get a statement until you talk to a lawyer. JC Law offers free initial consultations to show you how we will protect your rights and work for your best outcome.

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