If I’m arrested, do the police have to “read me my rights”?
No. However, if they start questioning you but haven’t read you your rights, they can’t use anything you say as direct evidence against you at trial.
What are these rights? Popularly known as the Miranda warning (ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona), your rights consist of the familiar litany invoked by TV police immediately upon arresting a suspect:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- If you do say anything, what you say can be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during any questioning.
- If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you so desire.
- If you choose to talk to the police officer, you have the right to stop the interview at any time. (This part of the warning is usually omitted from the screenplay.)
It doesn’t matter whether an interrogation occurs in a jail or at the scene of a crime, on a busy downtown street, or in the middle of an open field: If you are in custody (deprived of your freedom of action in any significant way), the police must give a Miranda warning if they want to question you and use your answers as direct evidence at trial.
If you are not in police custody, however, no Miranda warning is required. This exception most often comes up when the police stop someone on the street for questioning about a recent crime and the person blurts out a confession before the police have an opportunity to deliver the warning.