Police officers have been required to read these rights to suspects in custody since 1966 when a landmark case was decided by the United States Supreme Court. The case, Miranda v. Arizona, involved a man named Ernesto Miranda, who signed a confession to the crimes he'd been charged with after two hours of interrogation without being aware of his right to a lawyer or his right to not answer questions.
In the case, the Court determined that police must inform any suspect in custody of certain basic rights before the suspect is interrogated. If the suspect isn't informed of these rights, any statements made during questioning aren't permissible as evidence.
What are your “rights?”
Miranda rights, also called Mirandizing or simply rights, are actually very close to what you've heard in the movies. They are:
- 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
- You have the right for an attorney to be present during questioning
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you
Police typically read these rights to a suspect directly from a “Miranda card,” which is pre-printed with the list of rights. Once the rights have been read, the Miranda card is signed and dated. It then becomes evidence that can be used in future court dates to suggest that the suspect had been read the proper warnings.
What if you're not read Miranda rights?
The Miranda v. Arizona case demonstrated the need for criminal defense attorneys, as the highest court in the United States recognized that a person accused of a crime should have a lawyer to represent them immediately, even if the government must pay for the lawyer itself.
If you're taken into custody or interrogated, but no one Mirandized you, the first thing you must understand is that a lack of reading rights does not mean you can't be charged or convicted. Miranda rights only protect you from incriminating yourself, which is a right guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. It does not prevent you from being convicted, or allow you to go free because the police “forgot” to read you your Miranda rights.
In the absence of Miranda rights, police cannot use any statements you've made to them against you. This is why it's important to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer, and let them now that you haven't been read your rights. A skilled defense attorney can ensure that false confessions or inadmissible evidence are not used against you in court.
Vitaly Sigal, a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, delivers aggressive defense representation for people who have been charged with a variety of crimes. To discuss the details of your case with Mr. Sigal, contact our office today.