The Miranda warning, which also can be referred to as the Miranda rights, is a right to silence warning given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial interrogation) before they are interrogated to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings.
The famous statements, or similar advisories, often heard recited by police officer to criminal suspect in movies or on TV, for example, “Law and Order” TV series, are generally known as “Miranda rights” and are based on the Fifth Amendment, which protects a person from being compelled to be a witness against themselves in a criminal case.
The wording used when a person is read the Miranda warning is clear and direct:
“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 provided for you.
Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?
With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
In Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California suspects who are not US citizens are given the following additional warning: “If you are not a United States citizen, you may contact your country’s consulate prior to any questioning.”
If a person is in custody (deprived of freedom of action in any significant way), the police must read the Miranda rights if they want to ask questions and use the answers as evidence at trial.
If someone is not in police custody, however, no Miranda warning is required and anything the person says can be used at trial. Police officers often avoid arresting people – and make it clear to them that they’re free to go – so they don’t have to give the Miranda warning.
“You have the right to remain silent”. Silence cannot be used against defendant in court. However, suspect who state something like “my attorney told me not to give statements without him present,” may avoid the negative consequences of refusing to speak. It is called “Pre-Miranda” silence.
“Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law”. Suspect who give up the right to remain silence face the consequence that his statements will be used against them in court. Some lawyers claim that many innocent suspects, intimidated by arrest and interrogation, may speak to police without realizing the danger.
“You have the right to have an attorney present”. A suspect must be informed that he has the right to consult with an attorney and have an attorney present before answering any questions. If the police try to question a suspect after an arrest, they must stop that if the suspect requests an attorney.
“If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you”. For low-income suspect a lawyer will be appointed without charge if needed. Without this additional advisory, the caution of the right to consult with an attorney could be misunderstood, and rendered meaningless.
If you believe that your Miranda rights have been violated, this can have a significant impact on your case and may even lead to a dismissal of any charges against you. So, whether you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime, you should talk to a lawyer for a full explanation of the law, including how it may differ slightly in your state.