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Do I Have the Right to Remain Silent? Criminal Defense

Many people who are accused of committing a criminal offense are not familiar with the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. A clause included in the Fifth Amendment is designed to protect those who are accused from being coerced to implicate themselves in criminal situations. The "Miranda warning" was established in Miranda v. Arizona by the Supreme Court in 1966. This means that under certain conditions law enforcement officers are required to notify those they arrest of their right to remain silent; they must also notify of the right to consult with a lawyer. While this sounds simple, there is more to understanding your right to remain silent you should be aware of. Those with questions or who need legal guidance in New Jersey may want to consider reaching out to The Forrester Law Firm at 609-613-1513 to ensure their legal rights remain protected.

Understanding the Importance of Miranda Rights

In 1963 the Phoenix Police Department arrested Ernesto Miranda for allegedly kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old woman; the evidence leading to the arrest was circumstantial. Miranda confessed to the rape charge after being interrogated by police for two hours. The confession was made when Miranda signed typed forms including the statement, "I do hereby swear that I make this statement voluntarily and of my own free will, with no threats, coercion, or promises of immunity, and with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make may be used against me." The defendant was never advised of his right to legal counsel or his right to remain silent. Additionally, Miranda was not informed prior to being interrogated that anything he said, or statements made would be used against him in court.

Alvin Moore was Miranda's court-appointed attorney in the case. Prosecutors introduced Miranda's written confession at trial as evidence, to which Moore objected. Moore felt that the confession should be excluded as evidence due to the fact it was not truly voluntary; his objection was overruled. Miranda was ultimately found guilty of kidnapping and rape based on evidence and his signed confession and was given a 20–30-year prison sentence on each charge. Moore appealed Miranda's conviction to the Arizona Supreme Court, claiming his client's confession should not have been presented in court because it was not completely voluntary. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court and placed emphasis on the fact that Miranda did not request a lawyer. A 5-4 decision issued by the Supreme Court in 1966 was in Miranda's favor; his conviction was overturned, and the case was retried in Arizona. Miranda was once again convicted in 1967 and paroled in 1972.

According to United States Courts there were four individual cases regarding custodial interrogations that were addressed in the decision made by the Supreme Court in Miranda vs. Arizona.

Conditions Requiring That Police Read Miranda Rights

Miranda rights are often misunderstood by those who find themselves in a confrontation with law enforcement officers. Most believe these officers are required to read them their rights at initial contact, however this is not the case. For instance, a person who is pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and eventually taken into custody may claim the arresting officer did not read them their Miranda rights. A police officer is not required to inform a person of their rights before being arrested and taken into custody. Still, it is best to remain silent and avoid answering questions at all times. The Forrester Law Firm is available to provide additional information for those who need it.

Law enforcement officers are only required to read a someone their Miranda rights under two conditions according to

1. When a person is in police custody, and

2. Prior to being interrogated (questioned)

If only one condition is present, law enforcement officers do not have to inform someone of their rights. Both conditions must be present for an officer to be obligated to provide Miranda warnings. This means that a law enforcement does not have to inform someone of their rights when asking questions if that person is not in custody. Therefore, it is critical to remain silent, even when a police officer aggressively questions you. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

Your Right to Remain Silent

Even when someone is not read their Miranda rights, it is a good idea to remain silent. This is true whenever someone encounters law enforcement officers, even when questioned on the street or after being pulled over. When a police officer shows up at the door, remain silent. Whether or not police have informed someone of their right to remain silent and contact an attorney makes no difference in any situation. Police officers often resort to underhanded tactics when attempting to get someone to talk. Never provide any information on your own that could potentially be used in court - and remember, anything you say can and WILL be used against you. Simply saying "I will remain silent" is enough, whether on the street, at the police station, or inside the courtroom. It makes no difference if the authority is a city or state police officer, or an FBI official. Do not say anything, even when provoked or threatened.

When being interrogated while in police custody, someone who answers questions (which should never be done without the presence of a New Jersey criminal defense attorney) can stop at any time. That said, it is best not to answer any questions or discuss the situation at all.

Consider Scheduling a Consultation Today

People often incriminate themselves without realizing it when speaking to police or answering questions. When someone is innocent of the accusations being made against them what they say can still be misconstrued and used in the courtroom. Do you have a clear understanding of your right to remain silent? The experienced New Jersey criminal defense team at The Forrester Law Firm is dedicated to providing skilled legal guidance and support. You may want to consider scheduling a consultation by calling 609-613-1513.

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