About once a week our Criminal team fields a call from someone who was arrested and wants us to “get the case dismissed” because no one “read (them) me my rights.” Just like criminal cases are not investigated, tried, and decided in one hour like on T.V.; you do not always need to have your “rights” read to you. In fact, the vast majority of police contact does not require an officer to read you any warnings at all. If the police arrest you AND THEN ask questions about a crime you are suspected of, only then do they need to “Mirandize” you. It is perfectly normal to be arrested and never hear anything about your rights.
The “rights” we are talking about refer to your “Miranda Rights.” Miranda v. Arizona from 1966 discusses your right to NOT incriminate yourself in any criminal proceeding. The right to be free from self-incrimination is bestowed upon all of us via the 5th Amendment. If you have ever seen any crime drama, you may know the warning by heart:
“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? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
If you refer to my last Criminal blog post, you will know the answer to that last question is NO.
It is extremely rare for a criminal defendant to help themselves by talking to authorities without consulting an attorney. You may, in fact, be innocent, but you are already a suspect, and there is nothing you can say at that point to make them remove the handcuffs. Therefore, say nothing, and ask to speak with an attorney before answering any substantive questions.
Law enforcement might try a variety of tactics to get you to talk (i.e. “You must be guilty if you are not talking”, “If you tell me, I can help you”, etc.) You DO have to answer basic questions of who you are, age, address, etc, but if you are at all in doubt about the situation, say nothing beyond that. Be respectful but protect yourself until you can enlist the help of an attorney. The truth may “set you free”, and a good attorney can make sure your facts get to the right people. Call our experienced Criminal Law team today.