Miranda Rights in California

If you’ve ever seen a police drama on TV, you may be familiar with the following speech:

“You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions.  Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish.”

While the exact wording varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, these famous phrases are part of your “Miranda rights,” also known as the “Miranda warning.”  The Miranda warning is a critical aspect of the arrest process in California, but many defendants have misconceptions about its use – or, more specifically, the lack thereof.

As a defendant or a defendant’s loved one, it’s important to understand some key points about the Miranda warning and when it applies, which is why our criminal defense attorneys have prepared this short overview.  If one of your family members was recently arrested in Ventura County, call our law offices right away at (805) 643-5555 to set up a free, completely confidential legal consultation.  We handle DUI, drug charges, juvenile crimes, sex crimes, homicide, and more.

Your Fifth Amendment Right to Remain Silent and Avoid Self-Incrimination

The core function of the Miranda warning is to advise criminal suspects of their legal rights, one of which is the right against self-incrimination.  This right is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides, in part, the following:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury… nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”

Because the right to remain silent stems from the Fifth Amendment, exercising this right is colloquially known as “pleading the Fifth.”  If you do choose to speak to the police, your statements can be used against you later in court.  For this reason, the safest course of action is to politely inform the police that you wish to invoke your right to remain silent.

It may seem counterintuitive, but it is crucially important to tell the arresting officer that you intend to invoke this right.  If you do not verbally express your intent to remain silent, it could ultimately hurt your case.  This stems from a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors may present a suspect’s silence as evidence of guilt if the suspect does not explicitly invoke their right to remain silent.

Under the Sixth Amendment, you also have the right to an attorney.  If you cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed at no charge.  With that in mind, it’s important to be aware that public defenders, no matter how skilled or devoted, are often hampered by limited resources and excessive caseloads.  A private attorney is more readily able to devote his or her full resources and focus into handling your case.

When Do the Police Have to Read Your Miranda Rights if You’re Arrested? What Happens if They Don’t?

True or false: if the police don’t read you your Miranda rights, they have to throw out the case.  Many people would answer “true” – and they would be incorrect.  As all too many people have, unfortunately, learned the hard way, this oft-cited “fact” is probably the single most persistent and widespread myth about the Miranda warning.  In reality, the issue is more nuanced.
To begin with, there are situations where police officers are actually not required to read the Miranda warning at all.  The warning must be read only if the police have taken the suspect into custody, meaning the suspect is not allowed to leave of his or her own free will.  Critically, a person doesn’t necessarily have to be in jail or at a police station to be in custody.  One can be in police custody anywhere, even if it’s in the middle of a crowded city street.

If the suspect is not in custody, meaning he or she is free to walk away from the officers at will, the police do not have to read the Miranda warning.  However, anything the person says can still be used at trial.  In fact, officers sometimes intentionally delay making an arrest so that they will not be required to read the suspect their Miranda rights.

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If the officers fail to read the suspect his or her Miranda rights in a situation where the Miranda warning is mandatory, statements from the suspect generally may not be used as trial evidence.  However, there are various exceptions to this rule, which highlights the importance of making sure that your Constitutional rights are being vigorously protected by a knowledgeable attorney.

Get the Help of an Experienced Ventura, California Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have any questions or concerns about the legality of an arrest or police interrogation in Ventura County, we urge you to call the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 643-5555 for a free and completely confidential legal consultation.  Our criminal attorneys have more than 22 years of experience representing adult and juvenile defendants charged with felonies and misdemeanors in California, including simple possession of controlled substances, drug possession with the intent to sell, simple and aggravated assault, intoxicated driving, murder, manslaughter, sex crimes, theft, robbery, and more.

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