Sure, you may watch a whole lot of crime drama. Most of us mouth out the words as someone’s being arrested on the television screen: “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law”. But do you understand what that actually means in legal terms? Would you know what to do if you were wrongfully arrested? Sure, it may seem highly unlikely and perhaps it is. But it’s still a situation that many people find themselves in every day. For this reason, it’s important that you know and understand your legal rights and ensure that that are upheld. Here are a few things that you should be aware of to gain the best possible treatment should you find yourself in a sticky situation with law enforcement.
The Miranda Warning
The Miranda warning is an extended version of the line so commonly stated in soaps, TV dramas and films. In full, it has five parts.
- “You have the right to remain silent”
This essentially means what it says. You have the right to remain silent. You don’t have to speak if you don’t wish to. You can if you do. This is a right that is essentially irrelevant unless you decide to use it to your advantage. However, bear in mind that remaining silent when questioned on something can indicate guilt. After all, if you have done nothing wrong, what do you have to hide? This, however, cannot be used against you or as evidence.
- “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law”
From the moment of your arrest, anything that you say or do can be used as evidence. Chances are that it will be. You’ve been arrested for a reason and there will be a lawyer out there forming a case against you on behalf of the plaintiff (or individual who has accused you of doing wrong).
- “You have the right to an attorney”
While you have a legal worker out there fighting against you, you have the right to a criminal defence attorney of your own. This individual’s role will essentially be to fight your corner; to prove your innocence. If you request an attorney, all questioning has to stop until they have arrived and you have consulted with them. If you do wish to have an attorney, state so clearly. Don’t tip toe around the subject with phrases such as “I think I might need an attorney”. Simply state that you do want an attorney and refuse to answer any more questions until one has arrived.
- “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you”
While you may not be able to choose your own attorney if you don’t have the financial means of paying one, you can still have one assigned to you.
- “Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
This is where the investigation can continue. Having consulted with your attorney (if you choose to have one) you will be able to answer any further questions comfortably and confidently.
Actually understanding each part of this will ensure that you are as comfortable as possible in the situation and can progress knowing exactly what is going on.