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Your Miranda Rights

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James W Harwood
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Many people charged with driving under the influence assume that failure by police offers to advise them of their Miranda rights should automatically win them a dismissal of their charges.  The truth is far more complicated than that.  Not being advised can have no effect on your case, but also could mean all the difference in the world.  It all depends on the facts of your case. 

Miranda rights are based on a Supreme Court case that basically said that your 5th Amendment right against self incrimination is kind of useless if you don’t even know you have it.  It requires that if you are arrested you must be advised certain rights before you can be questioned.  Most people know the rights by heart from hours of cop dramas on TV, but for the rest of us the rights are:  (1) You have the right to remain silent; (2)  If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used in court against you; (3)  You have the right to speak with an attorney of your choice before questioning, and to have the attorney present during questioning; (4)  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you by the court before any questioning, if you so desire.  The attorney will not cost you anything.  After these advisements are read the officer should ask if you understand your rights, and if you are willing to speak without a lawyer.

First, it is important to understand that police officers do not always have to advise you of your Miranda rights before talking to you.  An officer only needs to advise you if you are actually “under arrest”.  In a DUI case this is significant, because most of the questioning that officers do happens before the formal arrest.  Whether or not you were actually under arrest depends on many different factors, such as where the questioning took place, if you were in cuffs, and how many officers were present.  It is incredibly important that you remember as many details as possible about the questioning so your attorney can fight to keep your statements out of court. 

It is also important to know that just because an officer did not read you your rights does not mean that you don’t have them.  Under almost any conceivable circumstance, other than providing basic identification you do not need to speak with police officers.  Usually, the less you say to the cops the better, and the less time your lawyer will spend later trying to prevent your statements from being used against you. 

In future blogs I will go into more detail regarding Miranda rights. 

Category: General

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