Your Miranda Rights – What They Are and Why to Use Them

You’ve been arrested for a crime. This is always a horrible experience. You’re making the right first step by seeking a Pierce County / Tacoma defense attorney. Try to remember the details because your defense attorney is going to need that information. He wants your story. One very important piece he needs to know is – were you read your Miranda Rights?

Due to TV and the movies it seems that everybody knows about these. They are: the right to remain silent, the warning that everything that you say can and will be used against you, you have the right to a lawyer being present during any questioning, and that if you can’t afford a lawyer you can have one appointed. When you’re arrested, the police are required to read you these rights. It’s unusual for the police to forget this but they are human so it has been known to happen. So, the question is again – were you read your Miranda Rights?

You may be wondering, “Why? What happens if they didn’t? Does my case get automatically dismissed?” Not automatically, but it might happen; as it is, it will hinder the prosecution’s case. Here’s what happens if you were not advised of your Miranda rights. Any testimony you gave to the police can’t be used against you. Any evidence they were further able to get due to that testimony is considered tainted evidence and can’t be used against you. A breath test result that you gave without being advised of your right to speak to a lawyer first also can’t be used against you. This will severely limit the evidence that can be used. Do be advised that they can use any evidence they have gathered outside of your statement so the trial may still go forward.  However, if due to the inability to use your statement there is now not enough evidence to convict you, then yes, the prosecution will drop the case.

What you also need to do is take advantage of these rights. Let’s break down what’s going to be read to you – yes, they do need to read them. If they quoted them, once again it should be pointed out that any person including police officers make mistakes, and said them from memory you should also discuss this with your defense attorney. It may be able to be argued in this case that the rights were not given to you properly and your testimony and subsequent evidence from that testimony may be able to be suppressed just as if they had not informed you at all.

The first right they will inform you of is that you have the right to remain silent. It cannot be stressed enough that this right should be used. In fact you are never under any obligation to give the police any information other than your name and birthdate or your license, registration and insurance information if stopped while driving. You are never under a compulsion to self-incriminate yourself. Many people worry, “If I don’t cooperate fully, they’ll think I’m guilty.” But think about it. You’ve been arrested. That means that they already believe that you’re guilty. They are not looking for ways to clear you. Their job is to build the case against you and they have been trained how to question suspects. Don’t make it easier on them. Your silence cannot be construed as an admission of guilt but anything you say can be used that way.

Next they will warn you that if you choose to waive that right and talk then whatever you say can and will be used against you. They mean this. Let’s consider a common example. Many people after being put in a situation where they had to use deadly force to defend themselves will say, “This is horrible. I’m so sorry”, or something similar. All they generally mean is that the situation is horrible and they’re upset that they were put in that situation. However many police will take this as an admission of wrongdoing. Take this warning seriously and use your right to stay silent.

Then they will inform you of your right to have an attorney present during all questioning. This means all questioning not just during trial. Get an attorney as soon as possible and say nothing to the police until you are able to converse with your defense attorney.  The US Supreme Court has held that this Right is the strongest of all the Miranda Rights.  So, ask for a lawyer right away.  Many people are dissuaded when they hear “one will be appointed to you.”  They think they need to go to court first.  But that is not true.  Public Defenders are on call to take your questions and advise you.  cityscape

Lastly you will be informed that if you can’t afford an attorney you will be provided one. If you’re checking out defense attorney websites it can probably be assumed that you are currently planning on retaining your own counsel. But this option may be a good idea to have in the back of your mind in case it ever does become necessary.

They will then ask their first post-arrest question, “Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?” If you do need further clarification they are inviting you to ask for it. As long as it’s done politely they will not mind answering any further questions you may have.  But, the best way to get clarification is from a lawyer.  So, again, ask for a lawyer.

That is why it is very important to remember if you were read these rights. If you were not, it helps your defense attorney immensely in getting you your best result. That is, of course, only one tactic. Those are also the reasons to take advantage of your rights. Your Pierce County / Tacoma defense attorney will examine every angle of your particular case.

Call the law office of Smith & White, PLLC – the first consultation is free.

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