Understanding Your Fifth Amendment Rights During Miranda

In 1966, a man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested for stealing $8.00 from an Arizona banking officer.  When Mr. Miranda was detained, and brought in for questioning, he was never told that he had the right to remain silent or speak to a lawyer before providing information to law enforcement.

Within two hours of interrogation, Ernesto Miranda confessed not only to the theft of $8.00, but to a charge of kidnapping, and a second charge of sexual assault.  At trial, Mr. Miranda was found guilty as a result of his confessions, which later were revealed to be acquired by high-pressure and illegal interrogative methods by Arizona law enforcement.

In the case of US Supreme Court Miranda v. Arizona, the terms and violation of his rights that led to the confession were appealed.  Mr. Miranda had a history of mental health issues, and had not completed Grade 9, and was not educated or aware of his rights during his charge and incarceration. The defendant and his counsel made a compelling case as an example of the power of intimidation practices that can be used by law enforcement, in acquiring a statement where no legal advice or counsel for the defendant has been provided.

In Miranda v. Arizona the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision, written by Chief Justice Earl Warrant, that prosecution could not be permitted to introduce Mr. Miranda’s confession evidence in the criminal trial, because law enforcement had failed to provide the Fifth Amendment rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.  The Fifth Amendment both guarantees all criminal defendants the right to an Attorney, and the right to refuse “to be a witness against” themselves and self-incriminate.

Because of the gross misconduct in the 1966 case of Ernesto Miranda, and the Miranda v. Arizona case, the “Miranda Rights” became an extension of the laws that govern the arrest and detention procedures for all Americans charged with a criminal defense, under both the Fifth and Sixth Amendment Laws of the United States Constitution.

The legally required Miranda statement during an arrest can vary in terms of the words that are used, but it must clearly identify these four important rights, and be read to the accused immediately at the time of arrest:

1. “You have the right to remain silent.”

Law enforcement will immediately begin to acquire evidence to build a legal case against you, the accused.  However, regardless of the tone or aggression used to ask questions, you have the right to say nothing, and simply inform law enforcement that you wish to remain silent until you have spoken to your lawyer.

Common questions that law enforcement officers can begin asking you even before Mirandizing you include:

  • Relationship to the victim
  • Where you are coming from, or where you are going
  • Where you were at a certain time
  • If you were alone, or with other people at the time of the alleged crime
  • If you personally knew the victim, or had a grievance or disagreement with them
  • Specific details about the alleged crime

The moment you inform law enforcement officers or prosecutors that you have chosen to remain silent until you have discussed the matter with a legal representative, they are required by law to ‘stop asking’.  If they do not, your Miranda Rights have been violated and any admissions you make, or information you provide, may not be admissible in court.

2. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

This statement acknowledges that details you share with any member of law enforcement, or even family members, friends or other individuals incarcerated with you, can be used as evidence against you by the prosecution.

Remember that visitation rooms, phones and jail cells are frequently monitored with cameras and sound devices to record interactions with visitors and other inmates; those conversations can be admissible and incriminate you.  Mail is also intercepted and inspected. So, if you are permitted with a visitation, call or mail from a family member or advisor that is not your criminal lawyer, refrain from sharing information that can be used by prosecutors in holding, in visitation rooms, or in transit with other accused individuals or inmates.

Law enforcement cannot force you to reply to their questions and must stop their line of questioning after you have opted to remain silent.  But that does not mean they cannot collect sound and / or video evidence that you volunteer while being held on your charge.

3. “You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning.”

When you have been incarcerated pending a criminal or misdemeanor charge, the details of that charge and the protections afforded to the accused by law, can seem confusing.  When you are in holding pending formal charges, you can be in a state of emotional distress, tired, hungry and apprehensive about your safety among law enforcement, as well as other individuals detained with you in holding.

Because we are all capable of saying things we do not intend to, when we are under stress and duress, it is very important that you avoid interrogative questions with law enforcement, without your criminal lawyer present.  First, you will meet privately with your lawyer to discuss the details of the case (which are confidential due to client-attorney privilege).  Next, your criminal Attorney will communicate with law enforcement about formal questioning, to ensure that he or she is with you, anytime the prosecution team wishes to talk to you.

4. “If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.”

When an individual has been incarcerated, their first course of action will be to determine if they can retain a private criminal lawyer (recommended), or whether they will need to have a Court Appointed Defense attorney provided, at no charge.

This is one of the most important aspects of criminal law, that does not fail to protect individuals in society who cannot afford to retain their own attorney. The court system will provide one for free, if that is the only option available to the accused individual.

Public defenders are an important line of defense, but they may not be the BEST line of defense, for you.  Because public defenders typically do not have the same administrative resources that private law firms have, their accessibility can be limited and can jeopardize the strength of your defense in court. When you call, Redden Law, PLLC answers 24/7.

Public Safety Before Miranda Rights in Criminal or Misdemeanor Arrest Situations

If you were not read your Miranda rights during arrest, does that mean all the evidence against you is inadmissible in a criminal or misdemeanor case?  Not entirely.  There is one caveat that allows for the cause and concern for public safety, which can negate the Miranda protections in certain situations.

For instance, in the case of New York v. Quarles, law enforcement discovered a victim who said that the accused had violently sexually assaulted her at gun point, and then fled to a nearby store. When a suspect matching the description was arrested by law enforcement, he was asked where the weapon had been placed (as it was not in his possession).   The accused told police, who recovered the weapon.

The Supreme Court in (467 U.S. 649 (1984), ruled that the arresting officer had the right to put public safety before Miranda rights, to locate a loaded weapon in a retail store, where others could become injured.  As the officers hastened to retrieve the weapon, the Miranda statements were read after the accused had indicated to police where he had placed the gun.

Redden Law, PLLC in Dallas specializes in criminal law and legal defense.  Your first consultation is free, and we will visit you in holding, or schedule to meet with our clients at Dallas County Jail to assist with your petition for bail and release.   Make sure your family or spouse know your criminal lawyer of choice, so they can help if you are detained, incarcerated or charged with an offense.

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