Why Exercising Your Right to Remain Silent is Important

Miranda RIghts

What is the Miranda Right?

"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 talk to a lawyer and have him present with you while you are being questioned. If you can not afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning if you wish. You can decide at any time upon arrest to exercise your rights and not answer any questions or make any statements."

The History Behind Miranda Rights

In 1963 a young man by the name of Ernesto Miranda was accompanied to the police station by officers. He was suspected to be the culprit of a kidnapping/rape case. The victim was asked to identify the culprit in a line-up. When it was over, Miranda asked police officers how he did, they replied by informing him he was positively identified. Police began to interrogate him for two hours until they received a confession from him, proving he committed the crime. Afterward, they lead Miranda to the victim of the crime for voice identification, where she confirmed his voice matched that of the offender. 

After confirmation, Miranda wrote and signed his confession. At the top of every page was written: "…this statement has been made voluntarily and of my own free will, with no threats, coercion or promises of immunity and with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make can and will be used against me." He had signed the confession in agreement that he had full knowledge of his legal rights. But in truth, he had no knowledge of his right to an attorney or his right to remain silent. Because of this, he was given a second hearing to prove his innocence but was found guilty the second time. 

Because of this historical event, it is now required that police state the "Miranda rights" while making an arrest.

How Do I Exercise My Right to Remain Silent?

You might think that by remaining silent, you automatically are exercising your right. Sadly that is not true. Your silence can be used as evidence against you if you remain silent without invoking your rights. To exercise your right to remain silent, you need to say, "I invoke my right to remain silent." However, if you aren't able to remember this statement, all you have to do is tell officers that you want to exercise your right to remain silent. If they understand that you are practicing your right, they can no longer use your words against you unless you agree to cooperate with them.

If you say you would like to exercise your right to remain silent, but you make the statement in future form, officers can continue to evaluate you and question you. For example, if you say something like "Maybe I should just get an attorney." or "I can just use my right to remain silent." or something along those lines, you are stating that you will or plan to use your rights but aren't doing so yet. If this happens, police can use your silence against you when they are asking you questions.  

It's also crucial that you realize that by talking to any police officer before you invoke your rights, you automatically agree to cooperate with them. You no longer have the freedom to use this right. 

When Do Police Officers Have To Read Me My Rights?

It is required that all police officers read you your rights upon making an arrest and while you are in custody being interrogated. However, if you tell the officers that you would like to exercise your rights before or during your arrest, they will not need to read them to you. If you are being interrogated and the officer assures you that you are free to leave at any time, they do not need to read you your rights seeing as you are there upon freedom of choice. 

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