If you know little else about the U.S. criminal justice system, you still probably have some idea of what it means to be issued a “Miranda Warning.” Thanks to mainstream television and movies, almost everybody is familiar with the advisement that begins, “You have the right to remain silent…”
But how familiar are you with how Miranda Warnings actually work? Here are three things you need to know.
The police do not have to Mirandize you upon arrest
In popular media depictions, police detectives start reciting the Miranda Warning as soon as the handcuffs come out. In reality, you’re more likely to hear them the first time in a police interrogation room either sometime before or after your arrest – if ever. The police are only required to Mirandize you when you are both in police custody and about to be interrogated about suspected criminal activity.
Staying silent isn’t the same as invoking your rights
There’s a big difference between just remaining silent and actually invoking your right to counsel. If you say nothing at all, the police can continue to ask questions to try to wear you down and provoke you into a response. If you actively invoke your rights, the interrogation must stop.
A small variation in wording won’t get you released
A lot of people believe that the Miranda Warning has to be repeated exactly as they hear it on TV in order to be valid – and that the charges will automatically be tossed out of court if they don’t. That’s an urban legend, not a reality. Different jurisdictions often use different variations.
Understanding your rights is often the start of a good defense. If you’re charged with a crime, invoke your rights and then stay silent until you have sought qualified legal guidance that’s specific to your situation.