Handling a Police Encounter

What are Miranda Rights?

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.”

Sound familiar? If you’ve been charged with a crime, it should. These rights are read to you at the time of your arrest. They are read in order to inform you that even when the police question or interrogate you, you do not need to talk to them. No matter what.

The Right to Remain Silent 

If you are ever arrested, no good can come from speaking to the police. But what should you do? The police tell you that you have the right to remain silent, but then they start asking you questions. You can’t be rude to a cop, right? 

Wrong! Your right to remain silent is always in effect. However, there are times when remaining silent can be used against you. Simply stating “I am asserting my right to remain silent,” will eliminate this problem. 

Consider the following circumstances:

Not Under Arrest: If a police officer questions you while you are walking down the street, you can simply ignore him. You may also decide to be polite and engage in conversation. If you think he may suspect you of a crime, it is best to decline from speaking to him.

Under Arrest & No Miranda Warnings: If you are being questioned, do not simply remain silent. You must tell the police, “I am asserting my right to remain silent.” Otherwise, your silence will be interpreted against you.

Under Arrest & Received Miranda Warnings: You may simply remain silent. Your silence will not be held against you.

The Right to an Attorney 

The right to an attorney is paramount in our justice system. When someone knows he cannot afford an attorney, he may think he has no other option but to represent himself. People need to know that the option of having legal representation is always available to them. 

Here’s what you need to know: If you are ever being interrogated by the police, all you have to do is say, “I want a lawyer.” After that, the police cannot question you unless you reinitiate a conversation with them.

Asserting your right to remain silent does not mean that the police have to remain silent. They can continue to ask you questions. However, once a person asks for an attorney, the police are obligated to wait until the attorney arrives.

What happens if I’m never read my rights?

People often think that if the police fail to properly inform the arrestee of her Miranda rights that the case will be thrown out. This is not true. 

Failing to read someone her Miranda rights only matters if the arrestee makes an incriminating statement. In that case, defense counsel will file a motion to suppress the statement. Upon granting the motion, the Judge will exclude the incriminating statement from evidence.

Phrases to memorize:

“Am I free to leave?”

“I’m asserting my right to remain silent.”

“I want a lawyer.”

  • Your right to remain silent is always in effect. 
  • If you haven’t received Miranda warnings, tell the police you assert your right to remain silent. 
  • Upon further interrogation, tell the police you want a lawyer. 
  • Then remain silent.
A quick word about confessions:

If you want to confess, do not do so without first working out an agreement beforehand. Have your lawyer negotiate with the DA so that you may receive a better sentence in exchange for your confession.


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