Your Miranda Rights, and How to Invoke Them

Police officer talking to driver

If you’ve watched a police procedural show like Law and Order, you’ve heard Miranda rights recited to fictional arrestees enough times that you could probably recite them yourself. But do you know what rights they offer you when you’ve been arrested in California? More importantly, do you know how to invoke these rights to protect yourself after an arrest? Read on to learn the key aspects of Miranda warnings you need to know to protect your important rights.

The Miranda Warning and the right not to talk

The words you’ve heard recited over and over on TV are known among the criminal justice community as a “Miranda warning.” The statement is provided as a way of warning those who have been arrested of the rights they’re giving up by answering an interrogating police officer’s questions. The full Miranda warning, named after the US Supreme Court case where the warning was developed, doesn’t have to be identical every time to comply with the law, but the basic points are as follows:

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 to you. At any time you can choose to exercise these rights by not answering any questions or making any statements. Do you understand these rights? With them in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

Essentially, the warning should be read to any person who has been placed under arrest to make sure they understand that they aren’t obligated to answer a police officer’s questions, and that they can ask for a lawyer. Let police know that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent or have a lawyer present by saying so explicitly, either by saying, “I wish to exercise my right to remain silent,” or, “ I would like to have my attorney present.” By invoking these rights, police will be required not to question you, or to stop questioning you until you have had the chance to speak with a lawyer. Even if you’ve already begun answering questions, you can choose to stop by invoking the rights described in the Miranda warning.

“I want my lawyer”: the only answer you need to give

Ask any criminal defense attorney what the best answer is to a police officer’s interrogating questions, and they’ll tell you the same thing: “I want my lawyer.” The officer may make it sound like you’ll clear up these pesky misunderstandings if you simply answer their questions honestly, but this is almost never the case. The officer’s job is to gather as much evidence as possible to support a case against you, not to send you home as fast as possible. They are highly experienced in eliciting information from arrestees. Rarely will answering an officer’s questions without a lawyer present ever make your situation better; in fact, this will almost always make it worse. After an arrest, your adrenaline will be pumping and your mind racing with the possible negative outcomes of your arrest. Don’t trust yourself not to say something you shouldn’t under these circumstances. Either remain silent (but not before telling the officer that’s what you wish to do), or ask for a lawyer who will help you safeguard your constitutional rights.

If you’ve been arrested in Southern California and want aggressive and effective legal help in protecting your rights, contact a seasoned Ventura criminal defense attorney at Tyler Law for a consultation, at 805-889-9000.

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