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Miranda Rights: Criminal Law

You have the right to remain silent

We all know what comes next because we’ve heard it countless times. Legally, the police have to read you these Miranda Rights/Warnings before conducting a custodial interrogation.

First and foremost, the word “Miranda” is not a technical word of ancient origin. It is simply the name of the appellant in the U.S. Supreme Court decision Miranda v. Arizona which created the constitutional requirement that police must read you the following warning before initiating a lawful custodial interrogation —

“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 speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.”

By virtue of the Miranda decision, the police are constitutionally required to read the foregoing so that you are aware of what you can and cannot do. The legal rule giving rise to the requirement is the 5th Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination. The Supreme Court simply broadened the privilege by ruling that it is not just applicable in court. Indeed, any time a custodial interrogation occurs — (1) when someone subjectively believes they are in police custody and (2) are being asked questions about the nature of an alleged crime by the police — Miranda warnings first had to have been read or else the statements given by the Defendant are inadmissible in Court. After the police read you your Miranda rights, they will usually ask you to sign a statement saying that you have understood the warning and/or waived such rights. It is up to you whether you’d like to speak to the police, but if at anytime you request an attorney the police have to cut off questioning for a period of time.

Despite the alleged constitutional nature of Miranda Warnings, several exceptions exist. For one, if a defendant takes the stand, un-Mirandized statements can be used to impeach him/her under the prior inconsistent statement method of impeachment. Further, through case precedent, information obtained through un-Mirandized statements can still be admissible if it would have been (1) inevitably discovered through normal police procedures, (2) was discovered through a legitimate, independent source, and (3) or the information obtained is tenuously connected to the statements. As you can imagine, it is often difficult for the government to prove that one of these exceptions is applicable.

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