Most of us these days are pretty familiar with courtroom proceedings and the whole law enforcement process, right? There is this prolific saturation of television with cop dramas and courtroom reality shows that we’d certainly like to believe we’d know how to handle ourselves if we were to ever find ourselves in such a situation. There’s a nice sized gap, however, when it comes to what makes good television and how events really go down.
Take the Miranda Warning for example. On television, the police are required to read the detainee their rights as they usher them into the back of the cruiser. Occasionally we’ll see an episode where the suspect walks simply because they weren’t read their rights at the time of the arrest so anything said is thrown out. This just does not happen in the real world, and it’s a very common misconception. In the real world, you get arrested, you’re detained, and you aren’t required to be read your rights until an officer interrogates you.
Now let’s take a moment to review our Miranda Rights before moving forward:
- You have the right to remain silent when questioned.
- Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.
- If you decide to answer any questions now, without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.
- Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?
Upon being read the Miranda Warning, you’ll be asked verbally (or prompted to fill out a form) if you understand your rights. Once it is established you understand your rights, the interrogation begins. Now you may have noticed that over half of the Miranda Rights pertain to having an attorney present. This is important! It’s at this crucial moment in which you need to make a decision. Should you continue to talk to the police at this point, it is known as waiving your rights. This move is strongly discouraged, as that second line of the Miranda Warning, “anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law,” is exactly what will happen. As a defendant anything you say is designated as an admission so it comes into evidence. You have to be very careful with what you say. Even a well meaning explanation out of context can come back on you at trial.
Police Receive Interrogation Training
Police receive training on getting the information they want out of suspects. They will play games with you. You’ve seen techniques like good cop bad cop dramatized on television, but they are permitted to threaten or coerce. Sometimes police will give the impression that remaining silent is actually detrimental to you. They may even say something like “If you just tell the truth, everything will be fine,” “If you just talk to us, you’ll go home,” or “We already know what happened, we just want to hear it from you.” These claims could not be further from the truth. Getting back to the question at hand, though, should you talk to police without an attorney present? Absolutely not. Even in the most mundane of circumstances, when you don’t believe there’s anything you could say that could implicate yourself in a crime, you should have an attorney present to be sure nothing you’re saying could be taken out of context or is otherwise incriminating. A skilled attorney will know exactly what questions should be replied to and when you should exercise your right to remain silent.
Exercise Your Rights
Remember, the Miranda Warning exists for a reason. You have rights when it comes to an interrogation, so exercise those rights to the utmost of your ability. Don’t get talked into a corner and have your own words turned against you. The next time you find yourself in a confrontation with law enforcement, reach out to a proven defense attorney to help guide you through the process.