If we’ve seen or heard it once, we’ve seen or heard it a hundred times: “you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney, if you cannot afford an attorney one will be provided for you”. These statements are given to a defendant when arrested, or before questioning. These rights are the result of a long and hard fought battle that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In its wisdom, the Supreme Court agreed defendants have certain rights guaranteed to them and that it is critical to advise of these rights. But what the Supreme Court gave out like a Christmas present, it soon started taking away as if it were the Grinch.
The rights given to a defendant at arrest are referred to as the Miranda rights. These rights were put in place in 1966 and have been a source of legal confusion ever since. At the most basic level, an accused has the right:
● To remain silent.
● To have an attorney present during questioning.
● To have an attorney appointed if the defendant cannot afford one.
● To be told anything you say can and will be used against you in Court.
As with any legal rule, there are exceptions to the Miranda rights. For example, if you present a clear and present danger, the police may search you for weapons and any weapons found might be used as evidence in a case against you. You are also still required to answer basic questions, such as your name and age. A defendant is also allowed to waive their Miranda rights and voluntarily give answers to police questions. This can get tricky though, because the defendant can also elect to stop voluntarily answering questions at any time after questioning starts. The problem may become one of timing, and incriminating statements may be brought up against you at trial. When in doubt, it is best to remain silent and call an experienced attorney. Having an attorney present when being interviewed by the authorities allows you to relax and give thoughtful answers, or decline to answer when your attorney advises remaining silent is your best option.
If you have been arrested, call our office to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney. If you believe you made incriminating statements, let us investigate the circumstances of your arrest and interview. We help people in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. The first visit is a free consultation, call today.