Criminal suspects and defendants may believe they are simply at the mercy of the police and prosecutors. However, if you have been arrested or otherwise detained, you have many rights under the Constitution and violations of these rights can be used in your defense against your charges. An important set of rights comes into play once you are in police custody and authorities want to interrogate you. Commonly called the “Miranda rights” because of the landmark case Miranda v. Arizona, these rights are as follows:
Right to remain silent and not answer any questions
Right to call an attorney to represent you in all interrogations with law enforcement
Right to have an attorney provided if you cannot afford a private attorney
Police officers are required to inform you of these rights before they can legally ask you any questions while you are in custody.
Your Options Regarding Miranda Rights
Once you have heard your Miranda rights, you have two main options: to invoke those rights or to waive them. If you would like to invoke your right to remain silent and/or to have an attorney, you should always clearly state this intention. Many people worry that invoking their rights may cause them to look guilty and it may be used against them in their case. However, it is unconstitutional for prosecutors to use an invocation of Miranda rights as evidence of guilt in a criminal case.
If you decide to waive your Miranda rights – which is generally not a wise idea – you can do so in different ways. You may sign a formal waiver, but this waiver must be knowing and voluntary, meaning you must understand the implications of waiving your rights and must do so without coercion by police. In addition, if you simply start answering questions without asking for a lawyer, it can be seen as an implied waiver.
You should always know that if you initially waive your Miranda rights, you always have the option to change your mind and invoke them at any time during your arrest.
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