All the police shows on TV show officers reading Miranda Rights to suspects. But what exactly are the Miranda Rights? Why are they important? What do they mean for you if you’ve received a ticket for Driving Under the Influence (DUI)? Are police required to tell you your Miranda Rights to ask you basic questions such as your name?
What is the Miranda Warning
A Miranda Warning is a set of rights that law enforcement officers are required to advise a person of if the person is suspected of a crime. The Miranda Rights are specified in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They ensure that a person accused of a crime is aware of their rights, including “habeas corpus, the right to remain silent, and the right to an attorney.”
The specific wording used to administer Miranda Rights by police officers is:
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 speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.
History of Miranda Rights.
Until 1966, police took advantage of the fact that not everyone was aware of their rights under the Constitution. If a person didn’t know they had the right to stay silent, they would often blurt out a confession. Police maintained that it was the suspect’s fault for not being aware of their rights.
That all changed in 1966 after a Supreme Court ruling in Miranda v. Arizona.
In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was taken to the police station in Phoenix, Arizona for questioning. He was accused of the kidnap and rape of a mentally impaired 18-year-old woman. Police did not tell him that he didn’t have to speak, or that he could have a lawyer present for questioning. He confessed to the crime. His lawyer attempted to get the confession thrown out at trial because Miranda had been unaware of his rights.
The original motion in 1963 was denied by the Arizona Supreme Court, but Miranda’s lawyer appealed to the higher courts. In 1966 the case made it to the United States Supreme Court. There were a total of four cases under review by the Supreme Court: Miranda v. Arizona, Vignera v. New York, Westover v. United States, and California v. Stewart.
SCOTUS overturned the ruling made by the Arizona court and the lower court rulings in the other three cases. The statements made to police by Miranda were ruled inadmissible because police had not made sure that he was aware of his rights. The issues reviewed were:
Whether ‘statements obtained from an individual who is subjected to custodial police interrogation’ are admissible against him in a criminal trial and whether ‘procedures which assure that the individual is accorded his privilege under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution not to be compelled to incriminate himself’ are necessary.
That ruling is why we call them “Miranda Rights.”
What are the Miranda Rights?
Police officers in the field will read an abbreviated version of the Miranda Rights to a suspect. The short version covers all the pertinent points, but is not the be-all-end-all. When a person arrives at the police station, an extended version is generally utilized, reaffirming that a suspect knows their rights and understands them. This exchange is often recorded, as a protection for both the suspect and law enforcement officials. Often this reading accompanies a signed statement made by the suspect affirming their understanding. The full version, with affirmations of understanding, are:
You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Do you understand?
Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law. Do you understand?
You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. Do you understand?
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. Do you understand?
If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Do you understand?
Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?
A suspect’s understanding of their Miranda Rights is very important. Sometimes a suspect is not capable of understanding their rights fully. That might be due to either temporary or permanent mental incompetence or impairment.
When is a Miranda Warning Required
The most basic rule of thumb is that a suspect must be advised of their rights prior to any “pertinent questioning” by police. That does not mean that reading Miranda Rights upon arrest must happen — only upon questioning about things that would have an implication on the crime the suspect allegedly committed.
Police can ask basic questions such as your name, address, social security number, drivers license and insurance information. They can also ask any questions of someone that is not a suspect without reciting the Miranda Warning. If, while questioning a “witness,” a police officer feels that the witness is party to a crime, questioning should stop, allowing administration of a Miranda Warning to that individual.
You have the right to remain silent.
The most well-known line of the Miranda Warning is “You have the right to remain silent.” On TV, you will often hear an officer recite that phrase, followed quickly by “Use it.” While that is for dramatic effect, it is very sage advice. If there is any doubt in your mind about the process of arrest — clam up and remain silent. Request a lawyer and do not offer any statement until your lawyer is with you.
The police will continue administering your rights and they ask for your signature and initials on the Miranda form. This is a formality and implies no guilt or innocence. It is merely an acknowledgment that you received and understand your rights.
Knowing your rights is vitally important.
If pulled over by a police officer after drinking or indulging in other impairing pursuits, not admitting to anything is in your best interest. Police will obtain breathalyzer or blood analysis which measures your level of impairment. Unless there is a procedural dispute, that is pretty much an unwinnable point.
Understanding your Miranda Rights is very important. If you do not understand something, at any point while in custody, ask for clarification.
Receiving a conviction for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a severe charge, and it affects you for many years. Also, suspension of your driver’s license is highly likely, along with fines. Many other factors of your life may also feel the impact. A driver safety course could be part of the requirements for you, before getting your license back. You may even have jail time, community service, counseling, probation, or a combination of them all.