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Behind the law: what your Miranda Rights really mean

Everybody makes mistakes. For some people, this means finding yourself at odds with the law. In the event you are arrested, it is important to understand the five statements of the "Miranda Warning" and how they protect your Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.

Since 1966, police officers are required to issue the "Miranda Warning" when making an arrest. They are five of the most important sentences you should ever learn. What are they?

  1. You have the right to remain silent. In reference to your Fifth Amendment right to protect against self-incrimination, you don't have to say anything or answer any questions that are asked. It is in your benefit to give only identifying information (like your name or address), and then indicate that you want an attorney, that your attorney advised you not to say anything or that you are simply choosing to remain silent.
  2. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. If you say something after being arrested, you can count on prosecutors using it against you in court - and not in a good way. This statement is a reminder that you truly can have a negative impact on your future case if you choose not to invoke your right to remain silent. Words can be warped and twisted to fit whatever circumstances the prosecution chooses, so it is important to use your words wisely.
  3. You have the right to speak to an attorney. Don't delay. An attorney can be your greatest asset when facing criminal charges. You have the right to reach out to legal representation before being answering any questions. It is important to be very clear about your desire for an attorney, don't "think" you want one, bluntly ask for an attorney.
  4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Not everybody can afford to pay for an attorney, but that doesn't mean you have to proceed without representation. Indicate that you want an attorney, but don't have the means to pay for one, and the courts will work to find representation for you. Many private criminal defense lawyers offer free initial consultations. Feel free to use one.
  5. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you? You have to respond to this question, it is your opportunity to request translation if you need it, but you must indicate understanding of your rights. A non-verbal nod of your head doesn't count. If police don't get a yes, they can't use the information. Just do not rely on that. Still ask for an attorney and then keep your mouth shut.

There are many issues regarding Miranda Rights with new court cases being presented to argue every nuance and interpretation of these five statements. If you find yourself in a precarious situation, it is important that you reach out to an attorney to make certain your rights are appropriately enforced.

The attorneys at Cruz & Bano, P.A. are ready to help individuals through the difficult process of a criminal case. For more information, visit the criminal defense section of our website.

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