Your rights may never be more valuable to you than when you are under arrest. Suddenly, every word you say sparks suspicion. Police may even record your conversation with them.
Civil rights advocates agree that the best thing to do when police question you is to keep silent. In fact, for more than 50 years, the law has required police to advise you how risky it is to speak when you are under arrest. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling called Miranda v. Arizona established that police must warn you your rights are at risk during your arrest.
When should police read me my Miranda rights?
The Miranda warning is a reminder of the constitutional rights that protect you from self-incrimination. If you are in custody under suspicion of a crime or if police begin to interrogate you regarding a crime, they must warn you of the following:
- You can refuse to answer any questions.
- Police will consider anything you say to be potential evidence, and they may use it against you in court.
- If you want to talk to an attorney or have a lawyer present during questioning, it is your right to ask for one.
- When you request an attorney, police must stop all questioning.
- In the event that you are unable to afford your own lawyer, the court will appoint an attorney to advise you.
Police may also check that you understand their warnings. You must confirm that you heard and understood your rights. Police may then ask you to sign a document acknowledging that they advised you of your rights. If you do not sign and then proceed to answer questions without counsel, authorities may assume you have waived your rights.
Miranda has its limitations
While police are required to warn you of your rights while you are in custody, there is nothing to stop police from asking you questions before detaining you or before formally interrogating you. Your rights are still in effect; however, police do not need to warn you about them unless you are officially under police custody and interrogation has begun.
Additionally, if New York police Mirandize you, interrogate you, release you and come back some weeks later with more questions, by law, they do not have to re-read the Miranda warning for the second interrogation. However, if police arrest and question you without warning you of your rights, anything you divulge or evidence collected because of what you say may be inadmissible in court.