Houston Criminal Law Blog


What Exactly Are the Miranda Rights and What Do They Mean for Me?


Understanding Miranda Rights in Texas

When people watch police shows on television, they often see this familiar scene: a suspect is placed under arrest, handcuffed, and the arresting officer will recite a list of the suspect’s rights. What exactly are these rights and how did they come to be used? This answer involves a complex legal case and these rights now play a major role in many criminal cases.

Miranda rights are used to protect a person who is placed under arrest as well as the officers making the arrest. They are a vital component of the modern justice system and everyone should be familiar with them.

What Are Miranda Rights?

When a person is placed under arrest, an officer may tell them some form of the following information:

  • You are being placed under arrest
  • You have the right to remain silent
  • You have the right to an attorney
  • Anything you say may be used to prosecute you in a court of law
  • If you can’t afford an attorney one will be provided for you

After reading these rights, the officer may ask the person being arrested if they understand the rights. This entire process is conducted to make sure that the person understands their constitutional rights when they are being taken into police custody.

Contrary to popular belief, the police aren’t required to read the Miranda rights whenever they make an arrest. By law, they are only required to read the Miranda rights if they plan to ask the suspect questions about a criminal case later on. They can even arrest a person, book them into jail and then read them their rights later before interrogation begins.

History of Miranda Rights

Miranda rights were first introduced in the 1960s. A man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested on charges of kidnapping, rape and robbery in 1966. At that time, police were not required to inform suspects of their rights. He admitted guilt while being questioned by police. However, his conviction was later overturned when the police were accused of using coercion and intimidation to get Miranda to confess.

Although Miranda was retried and eventually convicted, the legacy of his case still stands in the form of the Miranda warnings that police must read before questioning someone about a criminal action.

Common Questions

Many people have misconceptions about the use of the Miranda warnings. This is due in part to television dramas and Hollywood movies that misconstrue the use of these warnings. These misrepresentations cause people to have a lot of questions about the Miranda process. Some common questions include:

  • When must police read me my rights?
  • What happens if police don’t read me my rights?
  • Do I have to talk to the police?
  • Is my arrest invalid if police don’t read me my rights or will my charges be dropped?

To answer the first question, it’s important to consider how Miranda warnings are used in the real world. First of all, officers are allowed to stop, detain and question a person if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person is engaged in committing a crime. In this scenario, they are not required to read the Miranda rights. In fact, a person can even be placed under arrest and booked into jail to await a court date without ever being read their rights. For example, if a person is driving drunk and provides a breath sample that is over the legal limit, they can be charged, arrested and jailed without ever hearing a Miranda warning.

Police only have to read a person their rights if they plan to interrogate them. If police don’t read the rights, a violation hasn’t necessarily been committed. However, if police officers attempt to question someone without reading their rights, that person may have grounds for a court case against the police.

It’s not a requirement to give the police any information. However, refusing to talk to the police during an arrest could bring charges of interfering with an arrest. Although, if a person is being interrogated by the police, they may claim their right to silence and request a lawyer at any time. When this occurs, all interrogation must stop immediately.

If a person is not read their rights, it’s not likely that their case will immediately be dropped. If a violation of rights occurs, there may be an investigation into the matter but this may take some time.

If a person believes that their rights have been violated, the best thing to do is contact a lawyer immediately. A lawyer may be able to provide advice and a legal plan after assessing the facts.

Have you recently been arrested? Do you have questions about your Miranda Rights? Talk to a tough, smart lawyer, like Houston attorney Matthew Sharp. He can help you navigate. Contact his office today at (713) 868-6100.

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