You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. We’ve all heard these words on TV and in the movies. You hear them when a police officer is arresting a suspect. They are your Miranda rights. These are very important protections each of us has. But what are your Miranda rights exactly? What do they do for you? And when do they have to be given? Let’s take a look at your rights and see how to exercise them.
What Rights Do You Have Under Miranda?
The Miranda warning notifies you of four basic rights you have. They are:
- You have the right to remain silent;
- Anything you say can and will be used against you;
- You have the right to an attorney; and,
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
The Right to Remain Silent
You have the right to remain silent. That means that you don’t have to talk to the police. Period. You don’t have to answer any questions. The reason for this critical right is that you may incriminate yourself if you speak to the police without your attorney present. The government is not allowed to get information that could hurt you without notifying you of this right.
Anything You Say Can and Will be Used Against You
Keep in mind, when the police are questioning you, they’re building a case. You may be the suspect in that case. They’re not asking you questions to help you. They’re building evidence to convict you. Even seemingly harmless statements can be twisted and used against you. For instance, you tell the police you were present where something took place but you didn’t do anything wrong. Now you’ve put yourself at the crime scene making it easier to connect you to the crime.
You Have the Right to an Attorney
Because you’re facing the might of the government, you have the right to have an advocate on your side. Our Constitution recognizes the power of the government. You versus the government is not a fair fight. That’s why you have the right to have a lawyer speak on your behalf. The cards are stacked against you when interacting with the police. To even the playing field, get a lawyer.
If You Cannot Afford an Attorney, One Will Be Provided for You
If you make very little money, you could qualify for a court-appointed attorney. If you can afford it, you can go out and hire an attorney. But what if you make too much money to qualify for a court-appointed attorney but not enough to hire a lawyer? That’s where we come in. Our fees are on a sliding scale based on your income. The less you make, the less we charge. We’re dedicated to providing high-quality representation at an affordable price.
When Do the Police Have to Read You Your Miranda rights?
Contrary to what you see on TV, cops don’t have to read you your rights when they arrest you. Not reading your rights at the time of arrest is not a reason to dismiss the case. It may have implications in your case, however. They have to notify you of your rights whenever there is a custodial interrogation. If you make statements during a custodial interrogation without being advised of your Miranda rights, we may be able to get those statements thrown out.
What Does It Mean to Be in Custody in Massachusetts?
Police custody takes many forms. You’re in custody when you’re arrested, obviously, but you can be in custody in many more situations. In Massachusetts, you’re in custody anytime you’re interacting with the police and a “reasonable person” would believe you are not free to leave.
There are four factors a court will consider when deciding if you were in custody:
- The place of the interrogation;
- Whether the investigation has begun to focus on you as a suspect, including whether there is probable cause to arrest you;
- The nature of the interrogation, including whether the interview was aggressive; and
- Whether, at the time the statement was made, you were free to end the interview by leaving.
What is an Interrogation in Massachusetts?
Interrogation is defined as express questioning or something similar. Police statements or actions are similar to questioning when they know you’re going to react to what they’re doing. In other words, asking you questions directly is an interrogation. Interrogation is also if police officers are talking to each other knowing that you can hear the conversation. They say that your friend just told them that you were the one that committed the crime. They’re trying to get you to respond to that conversation, but they haven’t asked you a specific question.
I Want a Lawyer
“I want a lawyer.” These are the magic words you want to say if you’re being interrogated by the police. Once you say that, the police can’t ask you anymore questions without a lawyer. They can’t ask any questions for any reason about any criminal offense. They can only ask more questions if you initiate the questioning and waive your Miranda rights.
The Booking Exception
There are some exceptions to the Miranda rule. The police can ask you certain questions without advising you of your Miranda rights. Questions asked during the booking procedure at the police station don’t require a Miranda warning. They’re allowed to ask you routine questions such as your name, address, and age. If they think any such question could get you to say something incriminating, however, they must give you a Miranda warning.
Public Safety Exception
Another exception to the Miranda rule is the public safety exception. Police may question you in custody without giving Miranda warnings where they have an immediate concern for public safety, such as locating a gun that was left out in public. According to the Supreme Court, the public safety exception is triggered when police need to protect the public from immediate danger. But remember, even though they can ask you questions, doesn’t mean you have to answer.
The case that established the public safety exception to the Miranda requirement involved a woman who told police she had just been attacked by a man with a gun. She told them that he was in a nearby grocery store with the gun. Police officers found him in the store with an empty holster. They demanded to know where the gun was. He told them and was charged with illegal possession of a firearm. Although the encounter with police was a custodial interrogation, the Supreme Court allowed his statements and the gun into evidence because the safety of the public was at risk when they asked their questions.
Motion to Suppress
If you’ve made an incriminating statement to the police, you’ll want to keep it out of evidence. We do that by using a Motion to Suppress. There are many grounds on which you can try to suppress evidence. In this case, it’s based on a violation of the Miranda rule. We would argue that you were not properly advised of your right to remain silent, or you didn’t understand the warning. If we’re successful, the judge will prevent the statement from coming into evidence.
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
If the police illegally obtained a statement from you, that statement can be suppressed. Not only that, but any evidence that was discovered as a result of that statement may also be suppressed as “fruit of the poisonous tree”. The theory is that the police never should have gotten the information that you provided. If they use that information to gather other evidence against you, that additional evidence is tainted and should not be admissible. That additional evidence is fruit that came from an illegal act, the poisonous tree.
You have the right to remain silent. You should definitely exercise that right. Don’t talk to the police. They’re looking to prosecute you. Don’t give them any ammunition against you. They must advise you of your Miranda rights when you are in custody and they are interrogating you. Being in custody means more than just being arrested. You’re in custody anytime a reasonable person would believe you are not free to leave an encounter with the police. If you’ve made a statement, we may be able to suppress that statement. If so, the statement and any evidence it led to is inadmissible at your trial.