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How the Miranda Warning Protects Our Rights

September 10, 2015 | Written by Dan Margolis

Anyone who has ever watched an American crime movie or television show has heard it: “You have the right to remain silent…” Perhaps no Supreme Court decision has had as much impact on popular culture as Miranda v. Arizona, which the Court issued in 1966.

With that decision, the Court ruled that a criminal suspect cannot invoke his or her Constitutional rights if he or she does not know what they are. As a result, the Court held, police must inform people of their relevant rights before they arrest them or otherwise take them into custody.

Again, most people can probably recite the resulting Miranda warning in their sleep, even if they have never been arrested. As a reminder, the four things police must tell you before arresting you are:

1. You have the right to remain silent.

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

3. You have the right to an attorney.

4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.

These statements refer to the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination, and the Sixth Amendment’s right to legal counsel. The Miranda warning also reminds the suspect of the possible consequences of answering officers’ questions, and informs him or her that, in criminal proceedings, the right to an attorney is not dependent on ability to pay.

Failure on the part of the police to give the Miranda warning during an arrest may be grounds for dismissal later. Courts presume that any statements made by an arrested person who has not been read his Miranda rights to be involuntary. Such statements cannot therefore be used as evidence in court.

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