Because it is so often portrayed on film and on television, almost everybody in the United States is familiar with the famous lines that begin, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
The full speech, known as a “Miranda” warning after the famous case that inspired it, is an important reminder of your rights within the criminal justice system. Yet, despite public familiarity with Miranda warnings, there are a lot of misconceptions out there about them that cause confusion.
Myth: The police always have to read your Miranda rights when you’re arrested
This is a big misconception. The police only need to give you the Miranda warning if two things are true: You’re in custody, and the authorities plan to question you. If they don’t intend to interrogate you or your arrest doesn’t involve any questioning beyond your identification, they might not bother with the Miranda warning. While it’s common to be Mirandized during an arrest, there’s no hard-and-fast rule that demands it.
Myth: Your case will automatically be thrown out if the police don’t Mirandize you
That’s not how things work. While it’s true that a failure to receive your Miranda rights can affect the admissibility of any statements you made during questioning, other evidence that was legally collected during the investigation can still be used against you. A similar myth is that your case will be thrown out of court if the officer who Mirandizes you misspeaks and doesn’t read or recite the warning exactly as it is written. As long as the substance of the warning is correct, the court is unlikely to consider a small mistake a problem.
Myth: Invoking your Miranda rights means you have to be released
The police genuinely would prefer it if you didn’t invoke your right to remain silent or your right to counsel – but that doesn’t mean they simply throw up their hands and let you go if you do assert your rights. In California, you can be held for up to 48 hours (not counting holidays and weekends when the courts are closed) even without charges – and there’s no guarantee that you won’t be charged, regardless of what you do.
Knowing the truth behind these common myths is smart, as it will give you a clearer understanding of your rights and how to handle interactions with law enforcement. If you’re under arrest, regardless of the situation, it’s always wise to obtain experienced legal guidance right away to seek additional clarity of your rights and options personalized for your unique situation.