In the United States, seeing or interacting with a police officer is nearly impossible to avoid. Here in North Carolina, those interactions involved over 455,000 arrests a year – nearly 1,200 per day – as of the last FBI study. Unfortunately, many of those arrests (and the convictions that often spring from them) result from a misunderstanding about one of the most fundamental set of protections that every United States citizen enjoys – Miranda rights. Below, the attorneys at Garrett, Walker & Aycoth have laid out a few of the most common “Miranda Myths” and compared it to what the law actually is.
Myth #1: If they don’t read me my rights, they can’t use anything I say against me
The problem with this myth is that it makes the protection Miranda rights give too broad. There may very well be some things the officer wouldn’t be able to use against you, but more than likely there’s plenty that they will. Miranda rights only protect people who suffer “custodial interrogation.” To be “in custody” you have to be either formally arrested or similarly deprived of your freedom of movement. To be “interrogated” you have to be explicitly questioned by an officer or subjected to non-verbal actions that are likely to cause you to make incriminating statements.
This means the vast majority of interactions you’ll likely have with police will not trigger a need for Miranda warnings – at least not right away – leaving officers plenty of time to let you hang yourself.
Myth #2: If they don’t read me my rights, my case will get dismissed
This is just not true. Even in the best case scenario, where all the incriminating statements you made came after officers should have read you your rights there is most likely other evidence against you. Though a quality criminal defense attorney will be able to get the statements themselves thrown out, the prosecutor can still go forward with anything else he or she has against you.
Myth #3: My right to remain silent means they can’t use silence against me
Again, this is simply false. Though you always have the right to remain silent (whether you’ve been read your rights or not), if your case goes to trial the prosecution is absolutely allowed to use your silence or lack of cooperation against you in proving you are guilty to a judge or a jury.
So what should you do? The best advice when interacting with law enforcement is to be polite and cooperative, but to assert your rights. If you think answering and officer’s question honestly might hurt you in court, don’t stay silent or just refuse to answer. Instead, tell the officer you’ve been advised not to answer any questions without speaking to an attorney. This probably won’t save you from being charged, but depending on the circumstances it may prevent you from giving officers ammunition to charge you with a more serious crime, to search your car or home, or simply to prove you guilty in court. If at any point during an interaction with a law enforcement officer you think you need help, tell them you want to contact your attorney.
For help understanding your rights or dealing with the aftermath of an arrest or criminal charge, contact the experienced attorneys at Garrett, Walker, & Aycoth today.