What Are Miranda Rights?

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Miranda Rights are a warning that law enforcement must give to someone in their custody to avoid violating the person’s right against self-incrimination.

What The Miranda Rights say:

  • A person has the right to remain silent. They don’t have to answer any questions if they don’t want to.
  • If they choose to speak, what they say can be used against them in court.
  • They have the right to consult with an attorney.
  • They may have their attorney with them during questioning.
  • If they can’t afford an attorney, one will be appointed for them.

A person may choose to waive these rights and answer questions. If the person in custody says they want to remain silent, the police interrogation must stop. A person may invoke their right to remain silent at any time. If they say they want an attorney, the interrogation must stop until their attorney is present, and the person has been able to talk with them.

What is the Basis for Miranda Rights?

To understand Miranda Rights, you must first understand your Fifth Amendment rights. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” In other words, you can’t be forced to testify against yourself when you’re charged with a crime.

This protection doesn’t just apply in court. There are other circumstances where a person might be compelled to speak. Protecting a person’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination means protecting it in those circumstances, too. One situation is when a person is in police custody.

Why Are They Called Miranda Rights?

Miranda Rights are named after the U.S. Supreme Court case called Miranda v. Arizona. Miranda was the name of the defendant in the case. In its opinion, the Supreme Court explains how the Fifth Amendment applies in police interrogations. The opinion discusses what law enforcement must do to protect the suspect’s rights and to make custodial statements admissible in court. These requirements, imposed by the Supreme Court, became known as the Miranda Rights.

What Happens if a Person’s Miranda Rights Are Violated?

If a person’s Miranda Rights are violated, the defendant’s statements can’t be used against them in court. The defense may motion the court to exclude the statements. The government must prove that the defendant waived their rights knowingly and sanely. This is a high standard for the government to meet.

In 2004, the Supreme Court discussed physical evidence discovered because of custodial interrogation conducted in violation of Fifth Amendment rights. The Court said that physical evidence discovered as a result of a Miranda violation does not need to be excluded at trial. The right against self-incrimination is not violated when derivative evidence is admitted at trial, although the statements made in the interrogation itself are not admissible.

Miranda Rights are an important part of the protections afforded to individuals under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. A person doesn’t have to testify against themselves. Miranda Rights are a simple and required way to protect the right against self-incrimination when a person is in police custody.