Even if you have never been arrested, you have almost certainly seen police officers on television and in movies tell arrestees that they “have the right to remain silent” and “have the right to an attorney.” Informing someone of these rights is referred to as the Miranda warning, named after the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona.1 In that case, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that, in order to use a person’s statements to officers against them in a criminal trial, the person must be first advised of certain rights.

Understanding the Miranda Warning

While the Miranda warning can be said in different ways, the two most fundamental parts of the warning are the right to remain silent and the right to speak with an attorney. Warnings can also include statements such as “anything you say can be used against you” and “if you cannot afford an attorney, one may be appointed for you.” The heart of the warning, however, is as follows:

The right against self-incrimination under the 5th Amendment to the Constitution;2

The right to counsel under the 6th Amendment to the Constitution.3

Police must advise anyone of these rights if they are in police custody and the police are asking them questions. Otherwise, any answers to the questions may not be used in court to obtain a criminal conviction.

Waiver of Your Rights

Stating the Miranda warning does not fulfill a police officer’s duty under the law. Instead, in order to begin lawfully questioning you, an officer must obtain and express or implied waiver of your Miranda rights, as follows:

Express — You sign a form or verbally state that you are waiving your rights, that you understand the potential consequences of answering questions without counsel, and that you are willing to proceed.

Implied — Even if you do not sign anything or explicitly say you waive your rights, you may make an implied waiver if you are informed of your rights and then proceed to make statements or answer questions without calling an attorney.

A waiver must also be “knowing and voluntary” under the law. This means that you clearly understand what you are doing by waiving your rights. If a waiver is not knowing and/or voluntary, anything you say should be kept out of court. Examples of invalid waivers include:

Waiver of rights under police coercion;

Waiver of rights by non-English speakers who were not advised in their native language;

Waiver of rights by individuals with cognitive disabilities.

Why Invoking Your Rights is a Good Idea

Once the Miranda rights are read, you may assume that most people choose to stay quiet and call a lawyer. However, you would be surprised at the number of people who choose to waive their rights. In general, waiving your rights is not advisable and almost everyone should invoke their Miranda rights and consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Some people may waive their rights because they are too scared or hesitant to do so. However, you should know that invoking your rights is not a challenge to the police but instead a form of self-protection. In addition, some people think that invoking Miranda rights is a sign of guilt. However, even if you have done nothing wrong, police have many tactics to get you to make potentially incriminating statements. In addition, statements you make may be misinterpreted or you may simply misspeak, which is natural since you are likely stressed, nervous, and frightened. The presence of an attorney can help to ensure that you say nothing that can be later used against you.

It is important to note that even if you initially waived your Miranda rights, you can still change your mind and invoke them at any time. Even if you have answered questions, you may stop and state you want to call an attorney before saying anything further.

Discuss Your Situation with an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer

Violations of your Miranda rights can have a significant effect on your criminal case, usually in your favor. Our skilled Philadelphia criminal defense attorney will be able to evaluate the circumstances of your arrest and any subsequent interrogations to identify any possible Miranda violations on the part of law enforcement officers. If a violation occurred, we can use this fact to suppress confessions or other potentially incriminating statements to potentially have your case dismissed. If you have been arrested, you should not hesitate to invoke your Miranda rights and call The Zeiger Firm for help immediately. We will protect your rights, so please call us at 215-546-0340 today.

  1. https://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-miranda-v-arizona
  2. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/fifth_amendment
  3. https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/sixth_amendment

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.