Just because you have the right to remain silent doesn’t mean the police have an obligation to let you know it. This might surprise some readers. The recitation of the Miranda warning every time TV and movie cops slap handcuffs on a suspect is so common that it might be easy to think that it’s a requirement.
It isn’t, and as we noted in a previous post – police employ a number of interrogation tactics to elicit statements that the courts have found to be acceptable, even if they are contrary to notions of what we think is fair. Lying is considered unethical most of the time. Interrogators do it any number of ways. They might say they have evidence when they don’t. They might display false sympathy and say they are only trying to help you. Protecting your rights depends on you educating yourself.
Miranda is in the details
The practice of issuing Miranda warnings came into being after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1966. What the court ruled then was that self-incriminating evidence collected by police is impermissible in court unless the individual was warned before questioning. The justices didn’t say a Miranda warning must be given to every person arrested.
If the authorities fail to recite the Miranda warning or some acceptable variation of it that explains your rights before questioning, they might still try to use whatever you say against you. Alternatively, they might use information to track down other evidence. It could be possible to seek to have the information and any subsequent evidence obtained blocked in trial, but it complicates things.
To protect your rights, you have to know what they are.
In our next post, we will talk more about how to invoke your Miranda rights correctly and how to avoid waiving them inadvertently.