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The Miranda Warning: Know Your Rights in an Arrest


A crime drama staple is a police officer or detective barking that someone has the right to remain silent while they are being arrested. If the television show or movie is particularly good, it will be followed up with something about what they say and do being used against them in a court of law. Although this might be just some dialogue tacked onto scripts and screenplays, it is a direct reflection of some of the most important defensive rights Americans have under the Constitution.

What is the Miranda Warning?

In 1966, the United States Supreme Court ruled that someone must be told their Fifth Amendment rights whenever they are taken into police custody or will be subject to questioning. This upfront explanation of your right to remain silent until you have spoken to an attorney – and your right to not be forced to provide incriminating evidence against yourself – is known as the Miranda Warning, named after the historic case Miranda v. Arizona. If someone is arrested and questioned without the Miranda Warning being said clearly to them, any evidence the police or investigators may collect afterward could be deemed null and void, no matter how solid a case it builds.

How to Use Your 5th Amendment Rights

The Miranda Warning is necessary but only if you are going to be compelled to answer. If a police officer just asks, “Can you give me some information about this case?” or “What do you know about this crime?” but does not threaten arrest or penalty for lack of compliance, the Miranda Warning doesn’t have to be given. However, your Fifth Amendment rights are still usable.

If you ever want to not speak to the police for fear of incriminating yourself, you need to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights clearly. Just zipping up your lips and refusing to talk is not using your rights, and can even be construed as a subtle admission of guilt. Make certain you say, “Officer, I am invoking my Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent until I have an opportunity to speak with my attorney.” At that point, any questioning should stop.

When you are given an opportunity to call a lawyer, you should dial 414.882.8382 to reach the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella. Our Milwaukee criminal defense attorney can manage all sorts of defense cases, from drug crimes to OWI to homicide.

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