If you’ve ever watched a true crime show, you’ve heard the police officers read someone their Miranda rights. This is a series of statements that are meant to tell a defendant about their rights when they’re interacting with police officers while in custody.
One of the most important things to know about Miranda rights is that they offer a reminder that you have a Constitutional right to remain silent under questioning – and that invoking that right cannot be held against you later in court. (In contrast, whatever you do choose to say to the authorities can absolutely be used against you in court.)
Your right to remain silent is absolute, but not automatic
The invocation of your right to remain silent isn’t automatic. Instead, you have to clearly assert your rights. This means you need to specifically state that you’re choosing not to talk to the police or answer any questions.
Once you invoke your rights, the authorities can’t continue questioning you. Your decision to remain silent applies to all officers, so they can’t just switch interrogators and keep questioning you.
Invoking your right to remain silent also gives you the opportunity to speak with a defense lawyer about your case so that you can fully explore your legal options. With the right guidance, you can learn whether or not you should answer any questions at all, and to what extent. This can be particularly critical to understand if you have any information the authorities need, since they may be willing to trade reduced charges or a sentencing recommendation for what you know.
It’s critical to start thinking about your defense strategy immediately when you find out you’re facing criminal charges.