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What Are Miranda Rights



Miranda rights, or the Miranda warning, result from the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case involving a rape and kidnapping trial, Miranda v. Arizona. In that historic jurisprudence emerging from 1966, the supreme court held that a statement that might be incriminating and was given by a suspect will not be admitted into evidence at trial unless certain conditions are met:

  • The suspect must be informed about his or her rights. These include the rights to refrain from making incriminating statements and to have court-appointed counsel if the suspect cannot afford to retain an attorney.
  • The suspect must then waive his or her rights in a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary manner.

The Miranda warning is one that must be given to criminal suspects by the police when those suspects are detained in the custody of law enforcement or some other form of custodial interrogation. From a temporal standpoint, the warning must be given before the suspect is questioned in order to educate that suspect about his or her rights under the U.S. Constitution.

The Supreme Court did not dictate in the Miranda case the exact content of the warnings that must be given to a suspect. The high court did, however, give some basic guidelines to follow. As a result, the typical Miranda warning may vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another. The overall substance of the warning contains the same common elements. Typical Miranda rights read as follows:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in the court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

The Significance Of Miranda Rights

It is important to realize and distinguish that Miranda rights are not a condition of a suspect's containment within police custody. Instead, these constitutionally-derived rights are a type of procedural safeguard to warn suspects against committing detrimental self-incrimination. If a police officer fails to provide a Miranda warning to a suspect detained in his or her custody, the officer can still proceed to interrogate the suspect and take action based upon information and intelligence obtained during that interrogation. Yet, the officer is not permitted to use the suspect's statements obtained during that interrogation to attempt to incriminate the suspect within the context of trial.