Understanding Your Miranda Rights


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 to you at no cost. We’ve all heard these words countless times in movies and TV shows, but what does it actually mean? What does it mean for your case? This article focuses on your Miranda Rights. First, we are going to give you a little background on Miranda Rights, what they mean for your specific case, and how they could possibly lead to the dismissal of your charges.

Miranda Rights Origin Story

We’ve all heard “You have the right to remain silent” many times, and it is colloquially referred to as the “Miranda Rights”. Now, when we say Miranda Rights, Miranda refers to a landmark Supreme Court case that came out in 1966. The Miranda Rights are actually named after a gentleman named Ernesto Miranda. He was born in the southwest United States and, to be honest, was familiar with the criminal justice system.

In 1963, he ended up in Arizona where he was arrested on criminal charges related to the kidnapping of a young woman. The young woman’s brother eventually identified Ernesto’s car and Ernesto was brought in for questioning. After approximately two hours of questioning, he actually signed a confession. He signed away all his rights saying he understood them, and he positively identified the girl as the victim.

When he went to trial, his attorney tried to suppress or keep out evidence of the confession saying that it was coerced by police and Ernesto Miranda didn’t understand his rights. He was eventually found guilty and the case worked its way up to the Supreme Court. In that landmark decision in 1966, the Supreme Court stated that Mr. Miranda’s confession should not have been allowed in court because he was not aware of his rights before signing them away.

Confirming Your Rights

What do I mean by the rights that he signed away? Well, the Fifth Amendment guarantees that you don’t have to be a witness against yourself. In other words, you don’t have to self-incriminate. The sixth amendment guarantees you the right to counsel. The reading of the Miranda Rights clarifies:

  • A person is in custody
  • If police are questioning that person in such a way so that person gives incriminating evidence, that person should understand their rights before talking.

It is also typically understood that a law enforcement officer will read you your rights aloud, which isn’t always true. A lot of times they will have a piece of paper in which they have the rights written down and you either sign or initial next to them, saying that they have been read to you and you do understand them.

Understanding the Miranda Rights in Your Case

So, with a little bit of background information, what do the Miranda Rights actually mean for your case? We get calls at Berry Law all the time, almost weekly, from someone who says, “Hey, police didn’t read me my rights, doesn’t that mean the case gets thrown out?” That is a common misconception based on what we see in the media or based on what we see in movies, where the rights aren’t read and then defendant walks free. Unfortunately, that is not what it means.

So, what does it mean if you are in custody and you’re questioned without the being read your Miranda Rights? It means anything you say after that can possibly be thrown out. A court is going to look at whether you were in custody and whether or not police were interrogating you.

Miranda Right Examples

If you are sitting in handcuffs in a police station and they’re grilling you about a crime, you are most certainly in custody. However, if an officer just stops you on the street saying, “Hey can you answer a couple questions for me?” and you walk over and start talking, that most likely means you are not in custody. So, stopping you on the street is first example of an individual not being in custody versus being in a police station in handcuffs. The second aspect is if they were interrogating you? If police are just asking you biographical questions, that’s probably not an interrogation. It could be in certain circumstances, but it is unlikely compared to pointed questions about a crime. That is the important analysis that a court is going to go through when looking at whether or not some of these statements should be allowed at trial.

When Miranda Rights Could Impact Your Case

What does it mean for your case it the court finds statements were made without the benefit of the Miranda? It means those statements were not voluntarily given and those statements can be tossed out or not allowed in court. Now it’s not always this simple. Every circumstance is different. Every case is different. So, whether or not statements are going to be allowed in court is a really good question and relies on many factors, including whether you were in custody and whether or not the police were interrogating you.

Miranda Rights in a DUI Case

We often get questions at Berry Law regarding whether or not law enforcement needs to read you your Miranda Rights when they arrest you for a DUI. The simple answer is “No, they do not.” Because police are typically not interrogating you in a DUI case, there is usually not a need to read you your Miranda Rights.

Experienced Defense Lawyers

If you are facing criminal charges, our team at Berry Law can help. Our team of trial lawyers can fight on your behalf and help you find the most positive resolution to your case. Contact Berry Law today to schedule a confidential consultation.

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