Almost everybody in the United States has some idea of what it means to be “read their rights,” or receive a Miranda warning.
In essence, the Miranda warning is just a formal reminder that, among other things, you have the right against self-incrimination and that if you fail to avail yourself of that right, anything you say can (and most certainly will) be used against you in any judicial proceedings. However, a lot of people don’t realize just how precarious that right against self-incrimination can be. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
The police only need to issue a Miranda warning under specific circumstances
It may surprise you to learn this, but your charges won’t be thrown out of court if the police don’t issue a Miranda warning when they pull out the handcuffs. The authorities are under no obligation to remind you of your rights unless you are both in police custody and about to be interrogated.
Staying silent isn’t the same as invoking your rights
It may also startle you to find out that your “right to remain silent” isn’t something you can invoke by simply remaining silent. If you don’t actively convey that you’re invoking your Fifth Amendment rights to the police, then they’re free to continue questioning you and anything they get out of you would likely be considered “fair game” for the prosecution.
You may inadvertently waive your rights again simply by speaking
Police detectives use all kinds of tactics to get people to revoke or waive their Fifth Amendment rights, and they’re very successful at it. They can talk to each other and speculate in front of you about what your motives were, hoping you’ll get frustrated enough to correct them. They can joke with you and engage you in other conversations, hoping that you’ll slip up and say something they can use.
When you’re in trouble with the law, it really is in your best interest to quickly invoke your rights (whether you’ve received the Miranda warning or not) and stay silent until you can fully explore your defense options with legal guidance.