When most people are arrested, they’re panicked, in a state of disbelief or otherwise not focused on whether officers are reciting their Miranda rights. These rights, which many people can recite by heart simply from years of watching TV crime shows, are an overview of some of the key rights granted under the U.S. Constitution. Essentially, they amount to this: You don’t have to answer questions and you have the right to call an attorney.
One common misconception about Miranda rights (or the Miranda “warning” as it’s often called) is that officers have to read you those rights as soon as they arrest you. That’s often how it’s done on television. However, that’s not the law.
When a Miranda warning may not be required
A person doesn’t have to be “Mirandized” unless and until they’re about to be interrogated while they’re in custody. It’s possible to be arrested and jailed without ever being required to hear those rights.
For example, if you’re pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, an officer may ask you a few questions about whether you’ve been drinking and where you’ve been. You’re not in custody, so you don’t have to be Mirandized.
After failing a breath test, they may then arrest you and take you to jail. As long as they didn’t ask you any further questions about the alleged offense after your arrest, there was no obligation to Mirandize you. Officers will often Mirandize someone as they’re arresting someone just to make sure it’s done.
You can still assert your rights
It’s crucial to remember that you still have constitutional rights. You don’t have to tell officers anything whether you’re under arrest or not (outside of providing basic information like your name). You have the right to call an attorney.
If you were not read your rights when you should have been, then nothing you tell officers after that point can be used as evidence against you. That’s why it’s crucial to know when law enforcement authorities are not complying with the law.
It’s always wise to say as little as possible. Some people try to talk their way out of a situation. They often just make things worse for themselves. That’s why it’s wise to politely but firmly assert your constitutional rights. If you are taken into custody, you should make use of your right to seek legal guidance.