Breakdown of Miranda Rights

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Miranda Rights

We have all, at some point in our lives, be it television, movies, or real life, heard the Miranda Rights.  But where do these warnings come from and what do they mean? This article will outline the history and application of the infamous Miranda Rights.  Throughout this article, you will notice the term “custodial interrogation.”  This term of art, describes a situation in which a defendant is in custody of law enforcement and not free to leave, and subject to questioning or words by law enforcement, likely to elicit an incriminating response.  Miranda Rights come from the landmark Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona.

In 1966, four cases appeared before the Supreme Court of the United States.  In all cases, the criminal defendants were questioned and never received an effective warning of his/her rights at the beginning of questioning.  In applying the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled that criminal defendants, subject to custodial interrogation, puts his right against self-incrimination in jeopardy.[1]  As a procedural safeguard, the Supreme Court delineated five warnings that must be given to anyone subject to custodial interrogation.  These warnings are known as one’s Miranda rights.

You have the right to remain silent.

The first warning is supposed to remind individuals that they do not have to speak to officers if they do not want to.  The Supreme Court went further to state that this warning is “an absolute prerequisite in overcoming the inherent pressures of the interrogation atmosphere.”[2]

Anything you say can, and will, be used against you.

In addition to the warning to remain silent, the Supreme Court has stated “this warning may serve to make the individual more acutely aware that he is faced with a phase of the adversary system.”[3]  Also, with respect to the first two Miranda Rights, without an express warning, there is no way to determine whether or not the accused was in fact informed of his right to remain silent.[4]

You have the right to an attorney.

Similar to the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel, the Miranda Rights, (and consequently, the Fifth Amendment) guarantees individuals the assistance of counsel.  It should be noted, however, that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is different than the Miranda (or Fifth Amendment) Right to Counsel.

You have the right to have an attorney present with you before and during any subsequent interrogation.

In addition to the right to have an attorney, one subject to custodial interrogation also has the right to have an attorney present before and during police questioning.  The Supreme Court distinguished this from the other warnings for many reasons.  One of the most important reason is the fact that “[w]ith a lawyer presents the likelihood that the police will practice coercion is reduced, and if coercion is nevertheless exercised the lawyer can testify to it in court.”[5]

If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.

In line with the Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court in Miranda stated that, “[t]he financial ability of the individual has no relationship to the scope of [Miranda].”[6]  This, however, does not mean that each police station must have an attorney on standby.  Instead, it means that if an individual indicates the desire to consult with an attorney prior to questioning, the police may not continue interrogation until after such time.

To reiterate, an individual subject to custodial interrogation that expresses a desire to remain silent or consult with an attorney, cannot be questioned any further.  However, exercising ones Miranda rights are not as simple.  To illustrate, a defendant, subjected to custodial interrogation, who says “I want a lawyer, dog,” will likely not have been found to invoke his Miranda right to an attorney.  Miranda rights can also be waived.  However, this waiver must also be clear and unambiguous.  Further, silence alone typically does not indicate a waiver of ones Miranda rights.[7]

Miranda Rights are essential to due process in criminal cases and as it pertains to confessions.  However, this article still has its limitations and without knowledge of the application of the landmark case of Miranda v. Arizona, to include its most recent application to DUI cases in Georgia[8], a criminal defendant could miss the opportunity to argue a very important aspect of their case.  Allow the attorneys at Bixon Law to protect your rights.  Contact us today and let our experienced attorneys guide you in the criminal process.

[1] Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478 (1966).

[2] Id. at 467-68.

[3] Id. at 469.

[4] Id. at 471-72.

[5] Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 469-70 (1966).

[6] Id. at 472-73.

[7] Id. at 474.

[8] Olevik v. State, 302 Ga. 228 (2017).Right


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