What Happens if I Am Not Read My Rights?


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We have all seen police shows where, immediately upon arrest, a police officer begins telling the suspect “you have the right to remain silent...” The list of rights the officer is about to recite are known as Miranda Rights. So what happens if the officer does not read you your Miranda Rights at the time of arrest?

While many believe that if they are not “read their rights” they will escape punishment for criminal acts, it is not quite so clear cut. Instead, if one is not read their rights, then any evidence obtained from the suspect prior to being advised of their Miranda Rights may be inadmissible as evidence at trial.

What Are Miranda Rights?

Miranda Rights (or more accurately, a Miranda Warning) were made part of the common vernacular after the US Supreme Court of Miranda v. Arizona. In that case, the Supreme Court decided that suspects must be advised of their rights, most particularly the right against self-incrimination and the right to legal representation, before an officer can begin interrogating a suspect. The Miranda Rights are probably familiar to most anyone who has ever seen a police show or movie:

“You have the right to remain silent. If you do say anything, what you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you so desire. If you choose to talk to the police officer, you have the right to stop the interview at any time.”

Notably, the last sentence never makes it into TV and movie scripts

It does not matter whether an interrogation occurs in a jail, at the scene of a crime, on the street, or in the back seat of a car; if the person being questioned is in police custody (i.e., is not free to leave at any time), the police must read that person his or her Miranda Rights if they want to use that person's responses as evidence at trial.

If a person is not in police custody, however, a Miranda Warning is not required, even if that person is later arrested. If the person was not in custody at the time of making certain admissions, even if subsequently arrested, that information can be used against the person later at trial. For example, if someone is stopped on the street and blurts out an admission before being arrested, that admission is admissible because the person was not yet in custody and no Miranda Warning was yet mandated.

As a general practice, if it is unclear to someone whether they are under arrest or not, they should seek clarification before speaking with the police. If they are not under arrest, they may inquire as to whether they can leave. If the officer tells them they cannot leave, then the person should insist on speaking to an attorney before answering any questions. An officer generally cannot arrest someone simply for refusing to answer questions, particularly if they are of a potentially incriminating nature.

If one has been arrested, virtually every attorney will advise a defendant to remain silent, at least until the attorney can consult with the defendant. Police are trained in interrogation techniques and are often capable of walking a suspect into an unwitting admission or contradiction. Attorneys can help their clients avoid these pitfalls.

If you or someone you know has been arrested it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Whether a Miranda Warning was provided or not, the criminal defense attorney may be able to help guide you through the trial process and obtain the best possible results for you or your loved ones.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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