What is a Miranda Warning?

We’ve seen it on TV. In almost any cop show, you’ll see the TV cops give a warning to those they arrest that they have the right to remain silent, that anything they say can and will be used against the defendant in a court of law. This is called the Miranda Warning. Since we’ve seen it countless times depicted on the small and large screen, we must have an accurate understanding of how it works. Right? Well, maybe not.

Miranda, what it is, and how it works.

The first thing to understand about Miranda is that the warning given by police, otherwise known as the Miranda Warning, does not grant a defendant any new rights that they don’t already have under the Constitution. It is merely a reiteration of rights already specified. The Miranda Warning informs and warns defendants that they have a right to not incriminate themselves, a right already specified in the 5th Amendment, and informs defendants that they have a right to legal counsel specified in the 6th Amendment. (See blog post on Constitutional Rights)

Miranda began as a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the appeal of a case called, Miranda v. Arizona (1966), where it was ruled that Ernesto Arturo Miranda, had his 5th and 6th Amendment rights infringed during his arrest and trial for armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape of a mentally challenged young woman. After the ruling was handed down, Ernesto Miranda was subsequently re-tried and convicted in the case.

Miranda is a procedural rule that law enforcement is required to give only in a particular set of circumstances, custody and interrogation. An arrest by itself, does not require Miranda, unless, or until police determine that interrogation is required. The ruling states:

The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he/she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he/she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he/she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him/her.

Under the Supreme Court ruling, the court did not specify a particular set of words to be used in the warning, but the elements of the warning are:

  • You have the right to remain silent
  • Anything you say may be used against you in a court
  • You have the right to consult with an attorney before speaking to police and have a lawyer present during questioning.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed prior to talking to police
  • If you decide to answer police questions, you may stop answering at any time
  • Do you understand these rights as explained?

If the TV Cops were accurate in their depiction of Miranda Warnings, we’d probably never see it depicted on TV, since two circumstances are required to trigger the Miranda Warning, custody and interrogation, but there would be a lot less drama associated with the TV arrest.

The important thing to note is that Miranda is a procedure required of the police, not the defendant. The rights of the defendant have been specified in the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution since their adoption in 1791, and are applicable to any criminal defendant regardless of the warning.

The Defenders will vigorously defend your rights

In every criminal case, there are many laws and procedures to follow. The lawyers at The Defenders are fully experienced and prepared to provide a vigorous defense for you in any criminal matter. Call us today to discuss your potential case at (702) 333-3333.

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