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When do the police have to read me my rights?

Miranda rights or, more aptly, warnings, are the statements police are required to read or recite to a suspect prior to conducting any type of interrogation while the suspect is in police custody. The Miranda statements are rooted in fundamental constitutional protections. Their purpose is to protect and preserve a suspect’s Fifth Amendment constitutional rights against self-incrimination.

When Precisely Must Miranda Warnings Be Given by Police to a Suspect?

Miranda warnings must be given prior to a custodial interrogation of a suspect by the police. The question of precisely when the warnings must be given focuses upon whether a suspect is actually in police custody. To determine if a suspect is in custody, it is necessary to ascertain whether the suspect is free to leave or is being detained by police against his will. An arrest constitutes obvious police custody, but some traffic stops or roadside inquiries are in grayer areas of the analysis.

What Do Miranda Warnings Say?

The precise text of Miranda warnings may vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another, but the basic content is similar. The following text forms the basis of all Miranda warnings:

You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to have counsel present. If you cannot afford counsel, you will be provided one by the government. Anything you say can be used against you in court.

What Is the Significance of Miranda Warnings?

Each state’s laws require law enforcement personnel to provide Miranda warnings after placing a suspect in police custody. If a suspect understands the warnings and then proceeds to talk to law enforcement while being detained, everything said is deemed voluntary and can be used in court against the defendant. The purpose behind the mandate that Miranda warnings must be given is to preserve the truth of any evidence that might later be utilized in legal proceedings.

If a suspect feels intimidated, forced, or coerced into answering questions or speaking to police, the assumption is the suspect may be less likely to tell truthful statements and more inclined to tell lies or give information the suspect believes police want to hear. Criminal verdicts that derive from forced or pressured confessions undermine the country’s criminal justice system. The role of Miranda warnings is to protect criminal suspects from any temptation to give in to police pressure or intimidation.  Learn more about the basics of criminal law.

If you or someone you know has questions about Miranda warnings, custodial interrogations, or other criminal law issues, it is prudent to consult a criminal defense attorney. Time may be of the essence in protecting rights, asserting defenses, and making claims.