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What Your 'Right to Remain Silent' Really Means

You probably already know what your Miranda Rights are, even if you don’t know them by name. At one point or another – whether in the media or real life – we’ve all heard them recited by a police officer during an arrest.

“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 an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.

Also called “Miranda Warnings” for good reasons, these rights are required to be recited when someone is in custody and subject to interrogation. For now, though, we’ll be focusing on the first half of this statement, what it really means, and what its limitations may be.

Self-Incrimination & the Fifth Amendment

The Miranda Rights are based on a 1966 Supreme Court case (Miranda v. Arizona). The court held that police investigators are required to inform someone in custody of their Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution if the police wish to interrogate that person.

The Fifth Amendment provides those accused of a crime with a number of legal protections, but the one relevant to this topic is the protection against self-incrimination. Specifically, the Fifth Amendment provides that no one “… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” which can happen if someone believes they have to talk to police investigators.

In other words, you have the right to remain silent when you’re asked to discuss something that could be used against you. If you waive this right, which can be as simple as continuing to talk to the police after your Miranda Rights are read, any self-incriminating statements you make can be admissible as evidence.

What Do I Have to Tell Police?

The purpose of Miranda Rights is to protect those suspected of a crime against self-incrimination. People know they have the right to remain silent around police officers, but this right isn’t absolute.

For example, it’s a crime in Texas to refuse to tell a police officer your name, address, and/or date of birth. Known as Failure to Identify, this misdemeanor is punishable with fines and up to a year in jail, depending upon whether or not you had an active arrest warrant when you were asked to identify yourself.

You Never Have to Answer a Police Officer’s Questions

Other than providing the basic biographical information above, which should be on any identification document in your possession, you are not obligated to speak with the police or answer any questions.

You also shouldn’t feel compelled to answer any question whether a police officer is being very friendly or aggressive. Even if a police officer’s questions seem neutral or mundane, you should not answer them if you believe you are under investigation.

What Should I Do If I Wasn’t Read My Rights?

If you were never read your Miranda Rights and are now facing criminal charges because of something you said to the police, invoke your right to remain silent now and demand to contact an attorney. You may be liable for severe criminal penalties because the police violated your civil rights.

At The Alband Law Firm, we can represent clients who are facing criminal charges of all kinds and for any reason. If you wish to speak with one of our attorneys to learn more about how we can help, reach out to us to request a free initial case review.

Contact The Alband Law Firm online or call (817) 997-4366 for more information.

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