How many times have you heard on police episodes, “You have the right to remain silent?”
Remaining silent is a right everyone has under the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects against self-incrimination. It’s so important to our legal system that the authorities are even required to issue you a specific reminder of that right — known as the Miranda Warning (or your Miranda Rights).
However, it may surprise you to learn that the police are only required to issue that Miranda Warning under specific circumstances.
When are the police required to issue a Miranda Warning?
The police are only required to read your Miranda Rights if you are both in their custody and under interrogation.
If you are only being questioned in a non-custodial manner, then the police are not required to Mirandize you. For example, if you’re pulled over for a traffic stop, the police are free to ask you questions (and probably will) without reminding you about your rights.
Similarly, if you’re arrested but not interrogated, the police have no legal duty to issue the Miranda Warning. For example, if you’re arrested for drunk driving after you wreck your car and fail a Breathalyzer test, the police don’t have to remind you about your rights as they put you in the squad car. Only if they proceed to ask you questions after the arrest that are designed to obtain evidence about your offense does their affirmative duty kick in.
What should you remember about your right to remain silent?
The important thing to note is that your right against self-incrimination is absolute. Aside from providing your identifying information, you never have to answer the authorities’ questions about what you were doing, where you were going, where you have been or anything else. You do not need to wait for a reminder to invoke that right, and you shouldn’t. Observing your right to remain silent is always wisest.
If you’re facing criminal charges, invoking your right to remain silent can only help you. An experienced advocate can help you learn more.