If you have ever watched a crime drama on television, you have probably seen the officer advise the suspect of his or her Miranda Rights. This warning is read after an arrest has been made and before police questioning is conducted.
The Miranda Warning says:
“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 an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?”
The warning, which is intended to inform you of your rights regarding police questioning, does not have to be read to you if you are not placed under arrest. The reason for this is that if you are not arrested for committing a crime, you are not going to trial, so you don’t need to be warned that what you say can be used against you during trial.
However, if the officer does conduct pre-arrest questioning and feels that the suspect is beginning to make self-incriminating statements, the officer will read the Miranda Warning in order to protect the suspect’s rights and to ensure the statements may be used in court.
You cannot be arrested for simply refusing to answer the officer’s questions; however, police can arrest you for other reasons, such as probable cause. It is important to be polite and avoid aggravating the situation.
Refusing to answer questions before being arrested may look suspicious and can be mentioned during trial. Therefore, if you wish to remain silent you should say that your attorney advised you not to answer any questions without him or her present.
Please be advised that if you do answer questions before being arrested, your statements may be used as evidence during trial.
If you have been read your Miranda Rights and waive your right to remain silent or to have an attorney present, you later change your mind by saying “I plead the Fifth.”
If you are arrested for a crime and are afraid that you will make self-incriminating statements to the police, it is important that you request to have your lawyer present.