Criminal Defense Tips: What You Need to Know about Your Miranda Rights

Jun 28, 2017

Do you watch the television show, "Cops?" A fan of "Criminal Minds?" If you watch crime shows, or ever witnessed an arrested yourself, you've probably seen an officer reading someone their "rights" upon being cuffed and thrown into the back of a police vehicle.

But what are these rights? Why do officers have to say them? What do they mean? This article will tell you.

What are my rights?

If you've been detained by the police (i.e. you are not free to leave because of being handcuffed or otherwise), the law requires the police to tell you these four things before they question you further: 

  • 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 appointed for you. 

The right is simply to be told these four things. Whether you act on them is up to you.

What happens if police forget to tell me my rights?

If the police forget, any statement you'd make after being detained cannot be used against you as evidence in a criminal case. Evidence obtained as a result of those statements may also be thrown out in court. This is known as "fruit of the poisonous tree" evidence.

Why? Because without being told your rights, the law presumes your statements to police are involuntary. Officers are intimidating. They carry guns, they have the authority to cuff you, and they can send you to jail. People sitting in handcuffs probably feel coerced to talk to officers at that point. But if officers say you don't have to talk to them and you can instead talk to an attorney, that mitigates the intimidating situation.

Your statements can still show up in a police report, and police may still collect evidence obtained from those statements. However, as far as substantiating any criminal charges against you, those statements and evidence cannot be used against you.

Here's an example:

Jane Doe stole a car. She was speeding and CHP pulls her over. The officer runs a registration and background check and suspects the car is stolen and she is dangerous. He immediately handcuffs Jane. At this point, he should have read Jane her rights, but he didn't. Instead, he asks, "Is this a stolen car, ma'am?" She cries. She confesses, "Yeah, I stole it. My car broke down and I needed a car to pick up my kids from school and everything. My kid got sick. I had to take her to the hospital. Please ... I really needed it!"

Because the officer did not read Jane her rights, that confession cannot be used against her.

This example also highlights another point - to stay silent! Maybe Jane thought the officer would go easy on her with this kind of confession. But what if the confession just made things a lot worse? There is no way to know for sure. Thus, if you find yourself in this type of situation, stay silent and talk to your attorney about your situation when you can. An attorney is in the best position to put forward defenses for you.

Questions about your rights? Have a criminal case pending? The Mitchell Law Group is here to assist.

Category: Criminal Defense

Michael Mitchell


Michael Mitchell is a Fresno attorney who practices in the areas of DUI, personal injury & criminal law. Visit his Google+ profile.