You have four basic rights when law enforcement officers arrest you and attempt to question you. Called your Miranda rights, they stem from the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona.
The Miranda warning consists of the following:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to an attorney.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
Understanding your rights
MirandaWarning.org explains that when officers Mirandize you, they must do so in a manner that you clearly understand. What this means is that if you do not understand English, the officers must provide an interpreter who speaks your language as well as English.
Keep in mind that officers need Mirandize you only after they arrest you and wish to question you. They need not give you this warning prior to your arrest. Consequently, they can later use against you anything you say to them before your arrest. They can also use anything you against you that you voluntarily tell them, either before or after your arrest.
Also keep in mind that you must always answer an officer’s questions about your name, address, age, etc. Other than that, however, you have no obligation to answer an officer’s questions about anything else without having an attorney present to protect your constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Asserting your rights
Should you unwisely agree to talk with officers voluntarily, all is not lost. You can stop their questioning at any time by simply saying, “I want a lawyer.”