Common Misconceptions About Your Miranda Rights

If you have ever watched a crime-related television program, you know that most episodes end with a suspect in handcuffs and, as the screen fades to black, you can hear the arresting officer begin to say, “You have the right to remain silent.” Thanks to this type of depiction in entertainment, most people are aware of the series of statements known as Miranda rights—sometimes referred to as Miranda warnings. Unfortunately, however, there are many misunderstandings that persist about these warnings and the rights of a criminal suspect who has been placed under arrest.

What Are Your Miranda Rights?

The Miranda warnings trace back to a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case entitled Miranda v. Arizona. In that case, the suspect, Ernesto Miranda, was never informed of his constitutional right to an attorney and to avoid incriminating himself prior to being questioned by police. During a two-hour interrogation session with no lawyer present, Miranda confessed to the crimes of rape and kidnapping. The Supreme Court eventually overturned the conviction stating that suspects must be informed of certain constitutional rights before questioning or the results of the interrogation may not be admissible in court.

Following the decision, law enforcement agencies began using a brief notification of such rights which include two basic elements : the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The suspect is also notified that he or she chooses to speak, anything that is said may be used against him or her later. Miranda warnings further let the suspect know that if he or she cannot afford an attorney, the state will appoint one.

Misunderstanding Your Miranda Rights

While the Miranda warnings are fairly straightforward, there a still a few misconceptions that many people have related to their rights, including:

Myth: Miranda warnings must be recited at the time of arrest.

Reality: While most police officers will inform a suspect of his or her Miranda rights, there is no requirement that they must be read immediately upon arrest or even read at all. The only requirement is that the suspect must be aware of his or her rights and waive those rights, before any type of questioning or interrogation can take place incident to the arrest.

Myth: Remaining silent will look bad in court.

Reality: The Constitution guarantees that you cannot be forced to incriminate yourself. Thus, judges and juries are not permitted to use your silence as a presumption of your guilt.

Myth: The right to remain silent only exists until a lawyer is present.

Reality: You have the right to remain silent throughout the entire criminal process, including at trial. An attorney can help you communicate your intent to remain silent to interrogators, but his or her presence does not forfeit your right.

Let Us Help

If you or a loved one has been arrested on criminal charges, waiving your Miranda rights without speaking to a lawyer first can be very dangerous. Contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney, and we will fight to protect your constitutional rights. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

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