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Do police always have to read me my rights?

Knowing your rights is key to protecting them. Many have a vague understanding of the rights that protect them, especially in criminal matters, but often the law is much more complex than people realize. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Hollywood takes many liberties with criminal law when it comes to depicting police procedures.

One example of a rule that often leads to misunderstanding is the Miranda warning. Movies and TV crime shows often portray police arresting a suspect and reciting the rights to remain silent and obtain a lawyer. If you watch enough of these shows, you may be able to recite those rights by heart. However, did you know there are times when police do not need to warn you of your right to remain silent?

What is Miranda?

Miranda rights refer to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stemmed from a case here in Arizona. The court ruled that police must advise those who are taken into custody of their civil rights before they may begin an interrogation about a crime. Failing to do so could mean that any statements you make during questioning may be inadmissible if the case goes to court.

However, you may not know that you do not have to be under arrest to invoke your right to remain silent. In fact, if there is even a small chance that police could implicate you in a crime, it is best to refrain from making a statement beyond giving your name and identifying information until you speak with an attorney.

Are there exceptions to Miranda?

The Miranda rule applies to situations where police are interrogating you. Before they begin questioning you, if investigators fail to remind you of your right to remain silent and contact an attorney, they risk that a judge will suppress your statement, even if you confess to the crime. The exceptions to this rule include the following:

  • Citizens who are not agents of the government, including those who are informants, do not have to Mirandize you before asking you questions about illegal activity.
  • Officers who are working undercover will not give you a Miranda warning.
  • Police will not take the time to ensure you understand your Miranda rights if their safety or public security is at risk, such as if they suspect you have a weapon or know the whereabouts of a bomb.

One example of this is during a terrorist attack when someone in custody may have knowledge of future imminent attacks. In the interest of public safety, investigators may violate a suspect's rights to gain information. However, in most situations, you have the right to remain silent, and police should remind you of your rights. Most legal advisors will recommend exercising that right until your attorney counsels you on the best course of action.

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