We are all familiar with our Miranda Rights, otherwise known as the Miranda Warnings. These are the warning that we have the right to remain silent, given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial interrogation) before they are interrogated to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings. The Miranda Warnings are given as both a preventive measure to ensure people are aware of their Fifth Amendment Rights against compelled self-incrimination as well as their Sixth Amendment Rights to counsel in criminal proceedings.

You may not specifically have heard the term Miranda Rights or Warnings, but there is no way you have not seen crime dramas on television or the movies and heard the actors recite the police protocol of telling suspects they have the right to remain silent and be appointed counsel if they cannot afford any.

We all are minimally familiar with these rights, yet I am always astonished how infrequently people put them into practice or really comprehend them.

I remember as a teen having an old school hustler tell me “F talking to the police…they are not your friends!” I clearly understood his sentiment, but chalked up most of the feelings to lifestyle choices and self-preservation. The first month of law school tackled the issue and stressed the importance within criminal cases of suspects being read their rights prior to being asked questions or interrogated.

The reality is that people do not really understand, whenever the police come to talk to you, you are essentially a suspect. As such you should NEVER speak to the police without an attorney present…and if you do not have or cannot afford an attorney, one shall be appointed to you.

So I know some of you are saying I am being silly, over reactive or that if you are innocent there is no reason to not speak to the police. Perhaps I am the victim of a little knowledge creating paranoia, but I have read too much case law and subsequent articles, detailing innocent people (and not so coincidentally disproportionately People Of Color) who went to prison based on making unrepresented statements to the police.

I have training in the profession and I would never give a statement to police without representation. I would never give a statement period, if I thought for one second that I was a suspect in their eyes. Now, in no way am I suggesting that speaking to the police is snitching or wrong if it can in any way help in an investigation. I am, however, stating that if you are in any way considered a suspect and you will know when and if the conversation with the police turns (cause they are crafty enough to not usually start there) in that direction stop the conversation immediately and invoke your right to an attorney, which then automatically prohibits them from even asking you any further questions.

If that looks guilty, who cares… the fact that they are questioning you in a matter shows that you are minimally under suspicion for something. It is not your job to make them feel at ease or prove your innocence by talking. It is your job to not incriminate yourself and the only way that can ever be done is by shutting up. If in fact you have words to say or a story that they need to know of, tell it with an attorney next to you, so that the questions or story may be restricted to matters that you want them limited to.

You do not have to ever let the police search your car or house without a warrant. If they threaten to get a warrant that is by all means within their rights to do so, just as it is within your rights to not allow them access until such warrant is secured. If they are going to violate your rights and conduct the search without your permission there is nothing that you can do to stop them, however you have sufficient recourse to have anything they find from such illegal searches excluded as evidence against you. The point is NEVER give them permission to search your person, vehicle, home or property without a warrant.

This is not an anti-police piece. This is about providing a PSA to help educate those that simply may not understand their Constitutional rights. There are far too many incidents of innocent people having their rights ignored and being convicted in circumstantial cases largely based on perceived incriminating statements. That should never occur, because as a rule you should never give a statement to the police, and if you do it should only ever be done in the presence of your attorney.

This is not a matter of looking guilty or innocent. It is a matter of understanding your rights and making sure you use them.

You have the right to remain silent…Anything you say can and will be used against you… You have the right to an attorney…If you can not afford one, one shall be appointed on your behalf…. These words were drafted to protect people and acknowledge their rights. It is time people really understood them and took them to heart.


If you enjoyed this piece, read others in diaryofamadmind.com

#mirandarights, #mirandawarnings, #police, #attorneys, #selfincrimination, #knowyourrights, #fifthamendment, #sixthamendment


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