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Miranda Rights – Making Sure Yours Are Respected

The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution protects defendants in any court case – criminal or civil – from being forced to provide self-incriminating evidence. This is where the idea of “pleading the fifth” comes from – a defendant may refuse to answer questions by prosecutors or police if the answer may give prosecutors evidence against them. This “right to silence” is part of a larger group of rights known as the “Miranda Rights.”

The name Miranda comes from Miranda v. Arizona, a US Supreme Court case in the 1960s. Ernesto Miranda was charged in the kidnapping and rape of an 18 year old woman and confessed to the crime during interrogation. However, when the case was brought before the Supreme Court, they ruled that Ernesto’s confession was inadmissible as evidence, since he had not been informed that he could have remained silent and that he had the right to ask for a lawyer to be present during questioning. Even though the confession was thrown out and Ernesto was given a new trial, he was convicted based on other pieces of evidence and sentenced to jail time.

The most important effect of the Miranda v. Arizona was the establishment of the principle that suspects must be informed of their rights before they are questioned by police. These Miranda Rights have now become a standard part of law enforcement. Anyone who has watched a crime drama on TV or in the movies will most likely have heard the following lines:

“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 speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.”

These familiar lines comprise the Miranda warning which police are required to give to suspects, otherwise known as “reading them their rights.” Although the exact wording may vary slightly between departments and individual policemen, the content will and must remain the same. In some cases, the suspect will be asked to sign a statement verifying that they have been advised of their Miranda rights. Failing to inform suspects of their rights can invalidate any evidence the police might obtain through questioning.

If you are ever accused of a crime like DUI or DWI, be sure to make full use of the Miranda Rights guaranteed to you by law. Don’t answer any questions that may incriminate you – in fact, don’t answer any questions until you call Rhode Island DUI defense attorney Matthew Marin at 401-287-4384 and secure competent legal representation for your DUI case.