You probably think you know your Miranda rights from watching fictional law enforcement officers recite them so many times on TV or in the movies. But do you? More importantly, do you understand when these rights come into play?
FindLaw recapitulates the four Miranda rights as follows:
- 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.
When they apply
Per the historic U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona that established Miranda rights in 1966, they take effect only at the point of your arrest, not before. Therefore, law enforcement officers have every right to attempt to elicit voluntary information from you prior to your arrest. You, on the other hand, have every right to respectfully decline to answer their questions and give them voluntary information.
Why they are crucial
Your Miranda rights actually flow from the following three Constitutional rights you have at all times, both before and after your arrest:
- Your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures on the part of overzealous government officials
- Your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination
- Your Sixth Amendment right to attorney representation any time you face or potentially face criminal charges
Your Miranda rights therefore constitute your most crucial rights any time officers attempt to question you about an active criminal case. While you must identify yourself when they ask you to, you need not answer any additional questions unless and until you have your attorney by your side.