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Should I Remain Silent Until I Have an Attorney?

Most people have watched a movie or TV show where a person gets arrested. In the scene, a police officer usually tells the person getting arrested that they have the right to remain silent, and that everything they say may be used against them in Court. Is this just fiction, or is there more to it?

What are Miranda Rights?

Miranda rights are those famous lines that get repeated by cops as they handcuff individuals:

  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to speak with an attorney
  • The right to have an attorney present during interrogation
  • The right to a public defender if the defendant cannot afford a lawyer
  • Everything they say can be used against them in Court

These rights got their name after a 1966 Supreme Court case called Miranda v. Arizona. In that case, a man named Ernesto Miranda was questioned by the police for several hours after a victim of rape identified him in a lineup as her attacker. He did not have an attorney present. At trial, statements said by Mr. Miranda during interrogation were used as evidence against him, and he was convicted of rape and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The problem with what happened in the Miranda case is that the United States Constitution establishes that criminal defendants have several rights. Among them, were two rights that were ignored during the interrogation of Ernesto Miranda:

  1. His 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination
  2. His 6th Amendment right to an attorney.

These rights are absolute. Even if a Defendant voluntarily decides to answer questions by the police, then decides after a while that he wants to remain quiet or that he wants to talk to an attorney, the interrogation must fully stop.

If police officers fail to inform a Defendant of their Miranda rights, any statements given by the Defendant are considered to be “fruit of the poisonous tree” and cannot be admitted in Court as evidence.

What Triggers the Right to Remain Silent?

Miranda rights are triggered as soon as a person is under police custody. This means that they are not free to leave the scene. Sometimes, this is clear because the person is being handcuffed or being placed in a patrol car. It may be possible, however, that a police officer may keep you at the scene of a crime or at the place where you were apprehended as they call for backup. If you’re not sure if you’re free to leave, ask. If the cop says you cannot leave, you may invoke your right to remain silent.

1. Follow instructions. As a country, the United States likes to wax poetic about believing in justice for all. In reality, that is not always the case. Every day, there are plenty of stories of police misconduct during arrest or interrogation, or of prosecutors intent on winning a case at all costs. If you’re belligerent, resist arrest, shove an officer, or do anything else that may be considered insubordination, you may be charged with an additional misdemeanor.

2. Do not volunteer information. Whatever you do, do not talk with the police about what happened. Even if you believe there was a misunderstanding, or that they got the wrong person, or that you had a reason to act the way you did, or whatever may be the case, absolutely anything you say that may be interpreted as self-incriminating and will be used against you in Court.

3. Ask to speak with an attorney. You could be entirely innocent, or you may have actually committed the crime. Regardless of the circumstances, an attorney will look at every single possible way to either get you off the hook, exclude evidence against you if it was obtained illegally, negotiate probation or community service, or diminish the length of your sentence.

4. Do not say anything incriminating over the phone. After you are booked, you will be allowed to make three local phone calls. You may be calling your mom, your best friend, your girlfriend… even if you think the conversation is private, be aware that the Supreme Court of Florida established that there is no expectation of privacy when placing a phone call from jail. And since phone calls are not police interrogations, anything you say can be used against you.

Call Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A. to Discuss Your Case

When facing criminal charges, too much is at stake. Bail amount, evidence that can be introduced at trial, and in a worst-case scenario, the length of a jail or prison sentence. At Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A., we have experienced attorneys who can best design a strategy to help you.

Contact us, and let’s discuss your case.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended to be for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.

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