What are the Miranda Rights? - Introduction
Updated: Apr 21
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.” – The Miranda Warning
This article is the first in a series discussing the rights included in the Miranda Warning police typically read to someone before arresting them. The Miranda Warning, a series of statements police are supposed to say to a defendant prior to interrogating them, include some of the most important rights a defendant has available to them to ensure a just outcome through the legal process. The Miranda Warning originates with the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). This warning functions as a procedure the police can use which protects defendants by informing them of their rights, and the police and prosecution by preserving statements made by defendants who have waived these rights.
Though the Miranda Warning does not always take exactly the form quoted above, it must include details sufficient to inform the defendant of his or her right to remain silent, right to an attorney, right to be appointed an attorney if they cannot afford one, and warns the defendant that his or her statements may be used against them in court. If the defendant chooses to waive these rights, either explicitly or implicitly, any statements made after doing so can be used by the prosecution in court.
The right to remain silent protects a defendant from making incriminating statements, including seemingly minor statements. The right to an attorney gives the defendant a powerful, knowledgeable ally to help him or her navigate the labyrinthian nature of the American Justice System, and the right to an appointed attorney ensures access to these allies even for those who otherwise could not afford one.
Many defendants fail to appreciate the importance of these rights, and it can cost them their case, their money, and even their freedom. If you are arrested, protect your rights by remaining silent and speaking only to request your attorney. You deserve someone in your corner who will fight to protect your rights and ensure you receive a fair trial.