People ask us all the time if they can get off because the police didn’t read them their “rights.”

Anyone who’s ever watched a TV police show knows these rights start with the infamous “You have the right to remain silent…” The rights actually have name: Miranda rights, for the United States Supreme Court case requiring them. So you can understand whether reading your rights matters—and dazzle your friends at parties with your knowledge—here’s how the Miranda rights work.

The Foundation of Miranda Rights and Food for Thought

Did you know the Miranda rights are actually considered warnings? That’s right. The Supreme Court designed them to protect your right against admitting guilt when investigated by the police. That right is contained in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Food for thought. When you have a right, no one can legally take it from you unless you let them. We have warnings to protect you from bad things that happen if you ignore them. Let that sink in.

You’re welcome. On to when reading the rights makes a difference.

Surprise! The Rights Don’t Apply to All Police Questioning

Many are shocked to discover the police are only required to read the rights when you are in custody AND interrogated. These are legal terms bearing more explanation.

  • Custody. It’s scary, but you can be in custody and not even know it. To determine whether you’re in custody, the court considers many factors. You can also NOT be in custody when you think you are. Like a traffic stop—you got pulled against your will and maybe taken out of the car. Shockingly, you’re not in custody.
  • Interrogated. Legally, being interrogated is more than you think. It includes words or conduct designed to get you to admit involvement in a crime. Like exclaiming “Really!” after your answer to a question. Or scoffing at your answers. Neither of those is a question, but they’re designed to make you cave.

The Impact of Not Reading Your Rights

If you make a statement while in custody and questioned and without the police repeating your rights, your statement can be thrown out of evidence. This can have an enormous impact on some cases—it can end serious prosecutions or damage them so badly you get a deal you can’t turn down.

But don’t expect the police to give up easily. They will likely fight like crazy to have a judge determine when you made the statement, you weren’t in custody, or you weren’t being interrogated. That determination requires a pre-trial hearing. Handling that alone is like buying a propane tank and a blowtorch, then calling yourself a rocket scientist.

Talk to a Professional Before the Police So You Don’t Have To Worry

The arrest rights tell you that you have the right to remain silent and to consult with a lawyer. Use it. The police are professionals. The state employs prosecutors to help them. You’re an amateur. Don’t walk in the lion’s den alone.

If the police call you, call a skilled criminal defense attorney before speaking with them. If you already spoke with them, don’t beat yourself up. Just don’t let yourself make it any worse. Call us today at (888) 230-1841 for a free meeting to address dealing with the police and protecting your rights.



Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.