If law enforcement officers arrest you and take you into custody, they must “read you your rights,” i.e., inform you of your Miranda rights, before they interrogate you.
MirandaWarning.org explains that these rights consist of the following:
- 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 appointed for you.
The United States Supreme Court first enumerated these rights in the landmark 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona.
Keep in mind that your Miranda rights only protect you after your arrest. Prior to that time, officers consider any information you give them as voluntary and undoubtedly will use it against you in court if they consider it incriminatory.
While your Miranda rights only apply after your arrest, the constitutional amendments from which they flow protect you at all times. These protections include the following:
- Your Fourth Amendment guarantee of freedom from unreasonable governmental searches and seizures
- Your Fifth Amendment guarantee of freedom from self-incrimination
- Your Sixth Amendment guarantee of legal representation any time you face or potentially face criminal prosecution
Consequently, you always have the right to politely decline to answer an officer’s questions other than those pertaining to your identification. Once you provide that, however, the officer can ask you no further questions if you request a lawyer. In other words, all interrogation must cease until such time as your lawyer arrives and stands or sits at your side throughout the questioning process. Remaining silent until such time represents your greatest protection against inadvertently saying something that officers could construe as incriminating.