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Miranda Rights

Every U.S. jurisdiction has its own regulations regarding what, precisely, must be said to a person arrested or placed in a custodial situation. The typical warning states:

  • You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions.
  • Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish.
  • If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.
  • Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?

The courts have since ruled that the warning must be “meaningful”, so it is usually required that the suspect be asked if he/she understands their rights. Sometimes, firm answers of “yes” are required. Some departments and jurisdictions require that an officer ask “do you understand?” after every sentence in the warning. An arrestee’s silence is not a waiver, but on June 1, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled 5–4 that police are allowed to interrogate suspects who have invoked or waived their rights ambiguously, and any statement given during questioning prior to invocation or waiving is admissible as evidence. Evidence has in some cases been ruled inadmissible because of an arrestee’s poor knowledge of English and the failure of arresting officers to provide the warning in the arrestee’s language

While the exact language above is not required by Miranda, the police must advise the suspect that:

  1. they have the right to remain silent;
  2. anything the suspect doessay can and may be used against them in a court of law;
  3. they have the right to have an attorney present before and during the questioning; and
  4. they have the right, if they cannot afford the services of an attorney, to have one appointed, at public expense and without cost to them, to represent them before and during the questioning

There is no precise language that must be used in advising a suspect of their Miranda rights. The point is that whatever language is used the substance of the rights outlined above must be communicated to the suspect.[9] The suspect may be advised of their rights orally or in writing.[10] Also, officers must make sure the suspect understands what the officer is saying, taking into account potential education levels. It may be necessary to “translate” to the suspect’s level of understanding. Courts have ruled this admissible as long as the original waiver is said and the “translation” is recorded either on paper or on tape.

The Supreme Court has resisted efforts to require officers to more fully advise suspects of their rights. For example, the police are not required to advise the suspect that they can stop the interrogation at any time, that the decision to exercise the right cannot be used against the suspect, or that they have a right to talk to a lawyer before being asked any questions. Nor have the courts required to explain the rights. For example, the standard Miranda right to counsel states You have a right to have an attorney present during the questioning. Police are not required to explain that this right is not merely a right to have a lawyer present while the suspect is being questioned. The right to counsel includes:

  • the right to talk to a lawyer before deciding whether to talk to police,
  • if the defendant decides to talk to the police, the right to consult with a lawyer before being interrogated,
  • the right to answer police only through an attorney.

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